Former Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas has set off a new round of debate about immigration reform by revealing in The New York Times Magazine that he is in the U.S. illegally. Vargas, who shared a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, says he left the Phillippines when he was 12, and came to live with his grandparents, both naturalized U.S. citizens, in California. It wasn't until he was 16 that he found out he was here illegally, when he tried to get a driver's license and was told at the DMV that the green card his grandfather had given him was a fake. Vargas says he has been looking over his shoulder ever since, and telling quite a few lies to cover his trail.
There are 11 million undocumented immigrants seeking a better life in the U.S., says Pema Levy at The American Prospect, but Vargas' moving story will demonstrate "the pain caused by our immigration system in a way faceless statistics cannot." Not so fast, says Bryan Preston at Pajamas Media. The liberals praising Vargas for his confession are overlooking the fact that he committed crimes to stay in this country, including using phony documents to get scholarships and "jobs that otherwise would have gone to others who are here legally." Here, an excerpt from Vargas' account of his life as an illegal immigrant:
I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.
I've tried. Over the past 14 years, I've graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I've created a good life. I've lived the American dream.
But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don't ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me....
I'm done running. I'm exhausted. I don't want that life anymore.