Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I'm stealing your spot in line...........
"Hard luck, heart-tugging stories are great for cheap journalism but an absolutely terrible basis for policy-making," stated Mollie Hemmingway.
In 1993, at age 12, Jose Antonio Vargas came to America with a man he had been told was his uncle. He moved in with his grandparents in Mountain View CA and began school in the sixth grade. Both of his grandparents were naturalized American citizens and had been supporting both Vargas and his mother in the Philippines since he was 3 years old. It was much later that he found out that his "uncle" had actually been a smuggler who had been paid $4,500 to bring him here with a false passport and name. He discovered that he had been brought to the US illegally when he applied for a driver's license at 16 and was told that his green card was fake.
Since then, Vargas has graduated from both high school and college and had a successful career as a journalist with work in various publications. Vargas shared a Pulitzer prize while working for The Washington Post and went on to become a senior contributing editor with The Huffington Post. He has also stepped up to lead the "undocumented American" cause by coming out publicly about his immigration status. Vargas is far from "undocumented".... in fact, he has had all sorts of fake documents as well as lying to receive real documents. He has admitted to falsifying his withholding forms by claiming that he is a US citizen as well as deceiving his employers about his legal status.
"Jose lied to me and everyone else he worked for, and that's not kosher, especially in a profession where facts and, more elusively, the truth are considered valuable commodities," stated Phil Bronstein, Vargas's former boss and editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.
Vargas lied numerous times to get "legal" documents as well as lied to almost everyone he has worked with. He chose to keep his immigration status hidden to all but a select few during the times that he was working at various publications. Journalism is a field that is based on honesty in reporting and many of his former co workers feel as though they had been duped by his lies. There is even concern as to whether it may damage how other reporters may been viewed in the future.
Vargas finally decided to step out of the closet and wrote the story of his life in America. He originally submitted it for publication with the Post but at the last minute, they killed it fearing that it might reflect badly on the paper. He chose to contact Time Magazine and they rushed it to publication. He stated that he decided to come clean about his status because he was tired of running. It may also be because it was getting more difficult to effectively lie to employers in the new age of internet research.
Recently, Vargas produced and starred in "Documented" as well as starting the media campaign called Define American. Both of these efforts are to shed light on the lives of undocumented Americans living in the US. Again.......... Vargas has not been "undocumented" as he tries to others. He has had plenty of false documents or documents he has lied to receive.
He has now reported about his history of faking documents which began when shortly after the incident at the DMV. He described how his grandfather and him went to a copy store, covered the INS authorization text on his card with white paper and made copies of the altered card. His first driver's license he got in Oregon by using false documents and a false address. After that one expired he obtained one in Washington, which at the time did not require a social security number. He was stopped in October 2012 near Minneapolis for driving with headphones on and the police discovered that the Washington driver's license had been cancelled. The state had begun scrutinizing licenses obtained in that state after a flood of applications from people who did not have proof of a social security card. They do require that you live in the state and the letter sent to Vargas at the address he claimed he resided at was returned unopened, they cancelled his license. He was arrested and interviewed by agents from ICE but was later released because he did not fit any of the "priority categories for detention."
Vargas has admitted to driving illegally as well as even using his fraudulently obtained ID to enter the White House to cover an event there. He states that he has been traveling all over the US for his events but it is not known if he is still driving without a valid license. He does have a valid Philippine passport but does not have a visa for entry into the US. Vargas has even admitted that he "gave up" and just started checking the citizen box on his I-9 employment eligibility forms. Evidently......... because he does not have a single valid US document, he can claim that he is undocumented, like the 11 million others living in the US. He must have forgotten all the other fake documents he has had over the years.
Vargas has his eye on the prize..... a green card. There are two paths to getting a green card and permanent residency status in the US, through family members already here or through specialized job qualifications. The US, like so many other countries in the world, has a quota as to how many green cards are issued a year, per country. The US allows 25,000 per country per year which makes them more available to people in a country with a smaller population and/or fewer applicants. People with higher populations and/or applicants end up having to wait years or even decades to receive their green card.
The Philippines is one of the countries that have a large volume of applicants, so high that the US is just now working it's way through siblings of US residents that had applied around 1990 for a green card. Those applicants had applied to come to the US legally a few years before Vargas was brought to the US by a smuggler and a few thousand dollars and are still waiting to immigrate here legally. Vargas on the other hand has had the opportunity to live here, receive an education and hold several well paying jobs.... all things his fellow countrymen and applicants dream of doing but legally. The other option for a green card is through specialized jobs that need to be filled in the US such as those in the medical fields and executive boardrooms.
Many have been pinning their hopes on the Dream Act, legislation that was introduced in 2001 and aimed at helping those children who had been brought to the US illegally. In it's original form, it would put children under the age of 21 who had graduated from a US high school and had lived here for at least 5 years, on track for receiving a green card. The bill has stalled and been changed since, with the age requirement going as high as 35. While this bill and similar ones seem good on the humanitarian front, they would seem to also bump those people waiting for a legal green card out of line, if the quotas are kept.
Some states have created laws to toughen standards for illegal aliens but most of them have been held up on appeal. Arizona introduced SB1070 which basically is a law that allows law enforcement to stop anyone they believe is illegal and demand their "papers'. Many other states have followed suit in writing similar laws in the hopes of getting illegal aliens to self deport or in the very least, move out of their state.
ICE has been stepping up their efforts to deport those caught here illegally but they have also left some very large loopholes in their enforcement goals. Memos have stated that their priority is to weed out those illegal immigrants who pose a serious risk to national security. They also have been advised to focus on gang members, felons, repeat offenders and those who have committed numerous immigration violations such as fraud and illegally reentering the US. They have been advised to avoid proceedings against US military veterans, pregnant women, seniors, minors and those who have grown up in the US and have been long time lawful residents.
There is an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the US today, about 59% of them are from Mexico, another country with large numbers of legal applicants. That leaves about 1 million from Asia and the Pacific Islands, another 300,000 from Europe and about 800,000 from South America. Many of those who do not have a direct border with the US have come here with a legal visa and chose to overstay it. Vargas is in the minority it seems because he was smuggled here with cash and false documents. The US has increased it's enforcement of deportations........ it has set a record in deporting approximately 2 million in the past 5 years.
On July 15 2014, Vargas was arrested in McAllen Airport TX and detained by immigration. He claims that he was not trying to get arrested and further his push for a national spotlight for illegal aliens but his supporters certainly were all over the media. Vargas has been able to travel freely to 43 states during the past 3 years. He travels carrying only his Philippine passport and a copy of the US constitution, This does reveal a hole in the defenses of the US in their war on terrorism as they only check that his ticket matches the passport ID. Most airports do not check for immigration status or watch lists.
Vargas had reportedly been warned that he would have to go through a checkpoint when he traveled to the border to visit a shelter where children were being detained and he was sharing his own life story locally, He did send two tweets as he was approaching the airport checkpoint that voiced his concern about getting through without arrest. He was detained though after he told authorities that he was not in the country legally. He was released quickly.... quicker than many who have been arrested for motor vehicle charges. He does have a notice to appear before an immigration judge finally.
I suppose that Vargas can now try to force the US and immigration officials to grant him a green card when he has his hearing. Oddly....... he will have to explain how all of the laws he has broken somehow make him a model citizen here. The memos within ICE state that they are looking for repeat offenders and those who have committed numerous immigration violations. I find it difficult to view Vargas as law abiding since he has reported on the various methods he has used since he was 16 years old, to commit fraud.
He has stated that he feels that he is the most privileged illegal alien in the US. That may be so, since he has not faced a judge until this arrest. His hopes seem to be to use his story to shine a light on the stories of the almost 12 million that are already here. He easily defects questions about his fake documents and states that he "had" to do it so that he could find work here. As a US citizen, I would face charges, fines and possible jail time for committing fraud.... even if I was to do it for employment.
The US is facing a crisis of children coming across the border and Vargas and others are trying to use the humanitarian story to make a case for citizenship for almost all of them. Vargas has been honing his grandstanding and related sob stories for the press. They are very good stories but there is no need to change US policy or law because someone has their feelings hurt or their wish was not granted. The other side of Vargas's story is the thousands who have applied to immigrate legally and are still patiently waiting for that green card. To somehow fast track or make thousands of exceptions to those who have gotten here illegally and are still coming is tp throw crap on the doorstep of all those following the law.
Vargas has grown up in the US and admittedly loves the US. He is also capable of using the skills that he gained while living here illegally, to support himself in the Philippines. He is a journalist who shared a Pulitzer prize win for a story, so he has shown that he is a very capable journalist. If he were to return to the country he left when he was 12 years old, he may not have the lifestyle he has grown accustomed to but he certainly could support himself well.
Let us not forget all the thousands who have applied to come here legally and dream of what Vargas and others have been living while they are here illegally. If we offer those who have come here illegally, a chance to become a citizen......... it will do nothing to stem the "flood" of people across the border. It will only encourage those who would do it legally, to jump the line.
Evidently, Vargas and others like him feel that they are somehow privileged enough to be able to take another persons place in line for immigration just because they got here first. Just imagine waiting on line for hours for something and then suddenly............ someone else walks up, cuts in front of you and refuses to leave, citing that they are "privileged". Worse maybe would be if you have to wait outside a gate and wait another week before you could get back in line because this person pushed you past the quota for the week. Who is posting that story?
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Update Sept 11 2014:
Jose is up to his old tricks again......... forming protest groups. He reports that he has received his first set of documents from immigration officials and the first page read...... warrant for the arrest of alien. He stated that he has turned himself in to the Department of Homeland Security. He also has joined a small group that is named #10 of 11 million.
He cites two members, a 52 year old German woman who has been in the US for 28 years and a 35 year old Mexican national who has lived here for 17 years and has two children. He stated that they have filed cases as a group that asked for a deferral which would be a temporary stay of deportation. Once again, he complains that there is no amnesty or path to citizenship for them.
Vargas stated that they as a group are constantly asked why they don't just go to the back of the line and then make themselves legal immigrants to the US. His answer is that there is no such line for undocumented people like him. The members of this new group believe that they have now started a new line that will force the issue they have....... being granted citizenship just because they have managed to come to the US illegally or overstayed a visa and not been caught for years.
I am sorry Mr Vargas........ there is a line already, filled with people who have waited years to enter the US legally and you don't deserve preferential treatment just because you already live here. Your whining for citizenship is throwing mud in the face of all those who are doing things by the existing immigration laws and will only encourage more people to ignore the legal process in place. There is a line that you choose to ignore. It is called return to the country of your birth, take the punishment for entering illegally and then apply to return legally. It will probably be quite a few years before you get to the head of that line but complaining that it isn't fair to you should not be rewarded. There are plenty of people who are waiting in line legally who will become good citizens as well.
As much as you speak out for the "rights" of those who are here illegally, you tend to ignore the rights of those who are patiently waiting in line to immigrate here legally.
Update Feb 27 2015:
Vargas has been keeping busy while his status as an illegal immigrant hovers in limbo. The Los Angeles times announced on Feb 17 2015 that they have entered into a joint venture with Vargas to establish #EmergingUS. It has been defined as a multimedia platform that will explore the evolving American identity in the 21st century. They added that they are only working with Vargas and have not hired him because of his immigration status.
He is a very good reporter but there still has been nothing produced that has shown me how he could not also be a very good reporter in the country of his birth rather than allow him to continue staying here illegally. His status may well continue to stay in limbo now that 26 states have sought relief from the court system against Obama's attempt to make it easier for millions here illegally to jump the line.