Uploaded: Wed, Jun 22, 2011, 5:22 pm
MV's Pulitzer Prize winner outs his immigration status
Jose Antonio Vargas is a former Voice intern
Jose Antonio Vargas, former Mountain View High School student and top American journalist, has outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in a startling article in The New York Times magazine.
In the first-person account, Vargas recalls learning of his immigration status at age 16 when he took his green card to the Mountain View DMV to get a driver's license. He was shocked to learn that his green card was fake and that his grandparents had paid $4,500 to bring him to the U.S. in 1993 with a fake passport.
In the article Vargas, 30, says he is tired of keeping a significant part of himself a secret and admits to using fake documents throughout his life and to get jobs at the Washington Post and Huffington Post.
"I tried to compartmentalize my fears, distract myself by reporting on the lives of other people, but there was no escaping the central conflict in my life," Vargas writes. "Maintaining a deception for so long distorts your sense of self. You start wondering who you've become, and why."
Before that realization, Vargas said he had
convinced himself "that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it."
After getting a start as an intern at the Mountain View Voice in high school, Vargas has had much success as a journalist, interviewing the likes of Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and more recently Mark Zuckerberg for an article about Facebook in the New Yorker. He won his Pulitzer Prize as a member of the a team that covered the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.
Vargas has launched a website, defineamerican.com, and he aims to help create a public discussion about immigration in America. "We have not had a credible discussion about immigration in this country," Vargas told Rachel Maddow in an appearance on her TV show Monday. On Facebook, Vargas now lists Define American as his employer. The website includes a video about his story.
Vargas says that the first person he told about his situation was Jill Denny, his chorale music director at Mountain View High School. The choir was set for a trip to Japan, so Vargas told Denny he couldn't afford it. When she replied that they would find a way to pay for him, he finally admitted, "I don't have the right passport, I'm not supposed to be here. But Ms. Denny got it. The next day she told me the choir was going to Hawaii instead."
Denny told the Voice that her reaction was that she was "glad to have the info" because she would have kept trying to help him go to Japan.
"It doesn't matter in education where kids come from," she said. "It is our job to educate them and move them forward and keep them safe. I can't imagine any other teacher feeling differently."
Vargas also gives credit to former MVHS principal Pat Hyland and former Mountain View school superintendent Rich Fisher, a relationship he describes in a 2008 Voice article. He calls them both members of his personal "underground railroad."
"For more than a decade now Pat and Rich have been with me every step of the way,
guiding me and supporting me as I've tried to define what it means to be an American," Vargas says.
Vargas says he has been inspired by the courage of those campaigning for the legal status of students with the DREAM Act.
The New York Times magazine decided to publish the story despite concerns that Vargas could be deported. The Washington Post, Vargas' former employer, was initially set to publish the story but decided not to at the last minute, for unknown reasons.
"Lawyers told me not to publish the story at all," Vargas said on NPR's All Things Considered. "One of them told me it was like legal suicide."
Vargas now has a team of lawyers from the Filipino American legal defense fund who are "trying to make sure that whatever happens, detainment, deportation, that we're ready for it."
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Posted by No more illegal immigration
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2011 at 8:45 pm
In 1986, the US gave amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants on the condition that we would never do this again. When people come to the US illegally, even if they are children, they do it at their own peril. The parents know if they get caught there might be heavy consequences to pay. We will never end illegal immigration as long as illegal immigrants know that once they arrive they will get all the benefits and protection of citizenship and more.
It is unfair for illegal immigrants to jump ahead of the legal immigrants who wait for their turn and who follow our laws. We either have laws that we enforce or we become a lawless, borderless society.
Jose was 16 when he learned he was an illegal immigrant. He could have done the right thing at 16, but he chose to continue breaking the law. We charge people as young as 14 as adults, so why give Jose a pass? Why didn't Jose's grandparents sponsor him for a green card? Why didn't he go back to the Philippines to live with his mom? Furthermore, if my mom sent me to live with relatives when I was 12, I would want to know why and why my mom did not come too. I think Jose knew he was illegal from the get go.
In addition to coming to this country illegally Jose could be charged with falsifying documents to work, forging documents to get a Social Security number, making false statements on an I-9 form, making false statements to get a driver's license, etc. The laws Jose broke have penalties of 5-15 years as well as fines of $250,000. Which one of the laws that Jose broke is not serious?
Jose's mom wanted him to have a better life, but with the enormous numbers of illegal immigrants coming to this country, who steal education and health care resources, benefits, and jobs, they have severely affected US citizens whose lives have gotten worse. Why does an illegal immigrants right to a better life trump the right of US citizens to a better life?
The cost of educating an illegal immigrant from K-12, assuming $10,000 per student annually, is $130,000. There are approximately 65,000 illegals (very conservative estimate) who graduate annually, which means it costs $8.4 billion dollars to educate illegal immigrants. We could pay for every US citizen to get a college degree and have money left over to invest in research, infrastructure, jobs, etc., if we were not paying so much to educate illegal immigrants.
Some people argue we have already invested in the illegals K-12 education, so why not pay for college too? If it costs $130,000 to educate a student from K-12, then what happens if the illegal immigrant drops out, joins a gang, does drugs, gets pregnant, etc? Should we continue to fund them so we don't lose our investment? We should send the K-12 bill to the countries the illegal immigrants are from and deport the students and families.
We currently ask students to provide proof of residency, so why not ask of proof of citizenship? If the student is illegal, then report them to ICE. If a student is illegal and in a gang and/or causing problems, then report them to ICE. ICE should be able to investigate the entire gangbanger's family and if they are here illegally, then deport them.
There would be no overcrowding at our schools, we would have more resources, better behavior, and our test scores would be higher if we enforced our immigration laws.
Another argument is that it is unfair to punish the children. But, if your dad robs a bank does the family get to keep the proceeds because we do not want the children to be denied? If a parent has been embezzling money for 20 years do we allow the parents to continue to embezzle the money because the family is "use to that lifestyle?"
Jose Vargas and Mandeep Chahal make for "feel good" news stories, but they are not typical illegal immigrants. For every Jose or Mandeep there are hundreds of thousands of illegals who are in special ed, high school dropouts, in gangs, drug dealers and addicts, prisoners, and/or burdens on our health care system, etc. Jose and Mandeep are the exception.
The US cannot afford the massive costs of illegal immigration. Illegally immigrants are overwhelming our schools, hospitals and health care systems, housing, food banks, prisons, etc. Illegal immigrants are taking resources and jobs from US citizens who desperately need those resources and jobs. For example, if we deported all of the illegal immigrants in the US, then our K-12 schools would no longer be in crisis; we would tremendously reduce our costs for prisons; and our gang problems would be dramatically reduced, which would make our neighborhoods cleaner and safer, and fewer people would be unemployed.
The US taxpayer, especially the elderly, cannot afford to pay for benefits for illegal immigrants. Many illegal immigrants (like Obama's aunt who came here illegally) get on Medicaid, Medicare, disability, Supplemental Social Security, Section 8 Housing, etc. Immigrants get on our welfare programs (with forged documents) and take money away from our elderly and our children, and then immigrants send money to relatives in the counties they are from. Remittances to foreign countries cost the US almost $400 billion annually. The US taxpayer cannot support the world…we cannot even support ourselves!
We have one of the most generous immigration policies and it is wrong and unfair to let someone break our laws and jump ahead of others. We will never end illegal immigration as long as illegal immigrants know that once they arrive they will get all the benefits and protection of citizenship and much more.