Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Jose Antonio Vargas made a shocking confession in Sunday's New York Times Magazine: He has lied about his immigration status for his entire adult life. Vargas, 30, came to the U.S. when he was 12. He lived with his grandparents, both naturalized U.S. citizens, and didn't find out until he was 16 that his green card was forged. Since then, he has lied to obtain two driver's licenses, and employment at The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post, among other publications. What can we learn from Vargas' revelation?
1. We need immigration reform, now
The Vargas case clearly "highlights the need for comprehensive immigration reform," says The Boston Globe in an editorial. The outline of a bipartisan solution "has been visible since the Bush years," but the Senate remains gridlocked. The victims are people like Vargas, who are "American, through and through," just not legally. I was moved by Vargas' "brave and gripping account," says Harold Pollack in The New Republic. Maybe if we deported "de facto Americans" like Vargas — and quickly realized that illegal immigrants "do more than pick our fruit and mind our kids" — we'd fix our immigration system more quickly.
2. We need to make it harder to break the law
Of all Vargas' lies, perhaps the most galling is his claim to be an "undocumented immigrant," says Michelle Malkin at the New York Post. As he details, "he had documents coming out of his ears," just not legal ones. And he's hardly alone. "Driver's licenses are gateways into the American mainstream," for lying journalists like Vargas and "jihadists" alike. We have to crack down. The lucrative "fake document business" is evolving beyond Kinkos, says Hugh Holub in the Tucson Citizen. "When the U.S. tries to build a better mousetrap, those getting paid to assist illegal aliens build better mice."
3. Vargas' crime was more against journalism than the U.S.
"I believe in open borders and detest our current laws and their enforcement," but I'm very "disturbed with Vargas for lying to the Washington Post," says Jack Shafer at Slate. Lying to the government is one thing, but lying to Vargas' editors "violated the compact that makes journalism possible." He shouldn't be deported, except from journalism. He did lie to me and others in a profession "where facts and a more elusive truth are considered valuable commodities," says Phil Bronstein in the San Francisco Chronicle. And we editors don't appreciate being "duped."
4. Journalists are insufferable prigs
The old "journalistic scolds" never tire of pulling out "the most tired and hackneyed tropes of mainstream media ethics," says Daniel Denvir at Britain's Guardian. There is "zero evidence" he lied in any of his stories, which is what matters. And really, "lying about one's immigration status to get a job butchering chickens in Iowa" is fine, but it's a mortal sin if you lie to your editor to become "a serious journalist — or a serious anything other than, perhaps, a janitor"? Come on.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- In defense of Gwyneth Paltrow
- Republicans love this new health care plan. Too bad it's basically a tax cut for the rich.
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- 8 tricks to surviving the holidays without gaining weight or being grouchy
- Don't blame Chuck Hagel: Obama's foreign policy has been a disaster from end to end
- 17 old proverbs we should use more often
Subscribe to the Week