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Jose Vargas Reveals Life As An Undocumented Immigrant

Aired 1/11/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guest: Jose Antonio Vargas

Transcript

Jose Antonio Vargas was brought to the U.S. from the Philippines illegally at the age of 12. He attended high school, got a driver's license and social security number, attended college, and found employment at the Washington Post, eventually sharing in a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Virginia Tech shootings.

As his deception grew, he felt increasingly fearful and deceitful, eventually confessing to his editors at the Post.

The 24th Annual All People's Breakfast

Monday, January 16, 2012. Doors open at 6:45am.

Location: Hilton San Diego Bayfront | One Park Boulevard, San Diego, CA

Cost: Admission is $40 per person

Vargas wrote a much-heralded article, "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant," for the New York Times this year. He is guest speaker at this year's All Peoples Breakfast in San Diego.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | January 11, 2012 at 3:20 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Doesn't he mean ILLEGAL immigrant?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 12, 2012 at 8:18 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

No, Satyriel, "undocumented."

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 12, 2012 at 8:19 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

So how come Brittanicasss hasn't spammed yet? Or is it only "messicans" that he loathes?

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Avatar for user 'astrofan'

astrofan | January 12, 2012 at 9:07 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Deport him.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | January 12, 2012 at 9:28 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Please clarify the difference between illegal and undocumented.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 12, 2012 at 9:49 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

This is a good story, I think it's important to see there are two sides to the issue of illegal immigration.

The extremists on both sides seem to get caught-up in the politics, but in the end we are talking about human beings.

The one thing I am most often surprised about is that many of the virulent anti-immigrant spokesholes claim to be devout Christians.

Might I remind the religious zealot hypocrites out there that God may have created man and our planet (or at least the universe and dynamics with which our planet was formed) [for those who aren't Atheists, of course] but it was sinning humans (by definition) who created borders and Nationalism. I find it completely hypocritical that some of you religious folk are so hateful when it comes to fellow human beings simply trying to make a better life for themselves.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 12, 2012 at 11:54 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

At Duck, well I don't know if you belong to a religiuos organization or church or temple but I guess some of the Religious Right people were play hooky when they covered Leviticus 19:34 in Sunday school.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 12, 2012 at 11:59 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

"Illegal" carries with it not only a more negative connotation but a "criminal" label as well. The charge is failure to speak to a customs/immigration officer. Not exactly the "horror of horrors" in the annals of criminal activity. Furthermore, deportations are legally "civil" proceedings, not criminal proceedings.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | January 12, 2012 at 1:10 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

PDSD and MA,

Whatever your economic status, we're sitting on a possible fortune if we start selling T-shirts with silk-screened images of Jesus dressed-up as a Border Patrolman with "Get the Hell Out of Nazareth" on them.

Brittanicus, we'll set aside an extra-small just for you.

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Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | January 12, 2012 at 2:12 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Not sure how much it will help for the producer to weigh in on this conversation, but I do want to point out that Vargas was brought here at the age of 12. After discovering that he had no legal right to be here (when he tried to get a driver's license) thought that if he did everything right, became a good citizen and productive, tax-paying human being, that it would all work out in the end. Instead, he got himself through college, worked hard and even won a Pulitzer Prize, only to find out that none of this helps.

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Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | January 12, 2012 at 2:14 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Jose Antonio Vargas will be on KPBS Television on Evening Edition Monday, January 16 at 6:30 p.m.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 12, 2012 at 3:31 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Pat Finn,

Winning a Pulitzer Prize does not matter one bit. He committed many serious crimes:

o Entered the US on a fake US passport
o Stayed in US with fake Filipino passport
o Used fake student visa
o Used fake green card
o Obtained social security card with fake passport
o Removed "Valid for work only with I.N.S. authorization" from social security card
o Obtained employment with fraudulent card
o Checked 'US Citizen" on I-9 employment eligibility forms
o Obtained driver's license with fraudulent documents
o Traveled with fraudulent documents
o Obtained state funded education with fraudulent documents
o Admitted to these crimes publicly

He should be arrested at the "All Peoples Breakfast" and charged with numerous felonies. Winning a Pulitzer Prize does not absolve you of a life of crime.

Legal immigrants are true Americans. For they filled out countless forms, submitted documents, paid fees, stood in lines, answered interview questions, and completed the immigration test. I proudly call all legal immigrants my fellow citizens. Jose Vargas is nothing but an illegal alien.

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Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | January 12, 2012 at 4:06 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

That's what Jose found out. None of the things he did to be a good citizen mattered one bit. And there are millions like him here, from countries all over the world, working hard, paying taxes, raising children, going to school, doing all these things that don't matter one bit.
I have to say, though, the "life of crime" line is more suitable for the John Dillingers of the world.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 12, 2012 at 4:52 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

@delarick - Lol, thanks for making me laugh. Th sad part is I think u are right!

@pat Finn, thanks for the heads-up, I will tune in tonight.

@californiadefender, I think the point is that all illegal immigrants are not the same. The consequences of deporting someone who just arrived here yesterday are far different than the consequences of deporting someone brought here as a child by no fault of their own who has grown up I. This country and formed a law-abiding life for themselves here.

I find it unreasonable and inhumane that our immigration laws make no such distinction.

Illegal immigration my incite strong emotion amongst the public, but I believe that when you break it down into specific cases and put real faces to it, most Americans do not favor deporting people brought here as kids who have done everything right and assimilated into our country.

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Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | January 12, 2012 at 7:02 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Peking,I hope you're right about most Americans and deportation of those brought here as kids. We would lose a lot.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | January 13, 2012 at 8:06 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Unless I am completely mistaken about this issue, the civil deportation hearings you mention are meant to decide whether immigration LAWs have been violated. If they have then I think the label "illegal" is more accurate. Speeding isn't a heinous crime either, but it is unquestionably illegal.

As to the issue of minors, charge the parent(s) with the crime(s), since they are the responsible party. If the juvenile managed to immigrate by himself and live on his own, then he is obviously fit to be considered an adult.

If there is a statute of limitations on the law, then at some point the whole issue becomes irrelevant. Can anyone point to a reference that lists one?

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | January 13, 2012 at 8:11 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

CD, are those charges actually felonies? please cite.

PDSD, are you suggesting we change the law then enforece the new change or stop enforcing the current law until a change can be made?

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | January 13, 2012 at 11:10 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

The rule of law is an important part of a civil society, the foundation really. Stories like these are supposed to make us all feel guilty about wanting our immigration laws enforced. As if the bulk of what makes up illegal immigration to this country are people like Jose Vargas, and furthermore, that there are no victims or no negative impact to having a deluge of people coming here illegally. I really don't care how a person came to be here, if they didn't go through proper channels then somehow, amends must be made.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 13, 2012 at 6:42 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

@benz, I am suggesting both. Modify the law and in the meantime put a moratorium on deportations of law-abiding, well assimilated, self-sufficient productive people who came here illegally years ago.

@randolph, I agree that laws are an important part of civil society, but our law are and should always be evaluated and improved as problems are discovered with them. Can you imagine how terrible society would be if bad laws were never modified or repealed?

Immigration law should be based on what's best for our country, and not based on xenophobia, racism, or Nationalism. I don't see how deporting educated, law-abiding, capable people is good for our country, regardless of how they got here. You yourself say Vargas represents a small minority of illegal immigrants, so why would you not be in favor of an exception for people brought here as kids?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 14, 2012 at 1:36 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Pat Finn,

Just because you might consider immigration violations as victimless (which they are not) and view Jose Vargas as doing some good, it does not place him above the law.

There are two legal immigrants in my family and if you think my contempt for Jose Vargas is strong, try speaking with them. All of their tremendous effort to become citizens the legal way is tossed into the trash when you celebrate illegal aliens. In fact, it is a direct slap to the face and tells them to think little of their citizenship.

It also has the same effect on me. American citizenship has become so devalued that is is no longer a source of pride. Its just a thing to obtain, but quite unnecessary, like a gym membership.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 14, 2012 at 2:37 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Duck,

So what you are saying is that doing a little good after committing a crime absolves you of it?

So I can use a counterfeit medical degree to become a doctor, but because I'm a good person otherwise, it's all ok? Good to know. You can now call me Dr. Defender and schedule a lobotomy.

benz72,

Yes, they are felonies: http://www.state.gov/m/ds/investigat/c10714.htm. Scroll right to bottom and read the last section. Crystal clear.

Those crimes are so severe that it is the responsibility of the Secret Service to investigate them: http://www.secretservice.gov/criminal.shtml along with ICE and the FBI.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | January 16, 2012 at 8:49 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Every time without fail, if a person makes the statement that they support enforcing "legal" immigration, the words racism, xenophobia, and the like get thrown out, if not directly, they are suggested.

I believe (and I’m not alone on this) that we simply cannot run a productive civil society, that can balance its budget and be as fair as possible to its citizenry by requiring some to obey our laws, pay taxes, learn the language and accept the cultural norms while looking the other way or even encouraging others who don’t.

My belief in this applies whether you are black, brown, yellow, white, or somewhere in between. My belief in this applies whether you came from Spain, Sweden, or the moon. I want a country that supports and defends rational and reasonable laws, and I happen to believe that legal immigration is the only rational and reasonable way to allow people to come here to work, live, and ultimately, if they meet our requirements and wish to do earn the right, become loyal citizens.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 16, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

@randolph, modifying bad laws is not advocating for lawless society, it's advocating for practicality and fairness.

You and others have this cherry-picked philosophy that when it comes to illegal immigration, all laws are perfect and should not be examined or scrutinized just blindly enforced.

You seem to be concerned with people bringing up racism and xenophobia all the time. Perhaps the reason you encounter this is because that's what your posts espouse?

As I tried to explain before, you need to look at the reason we have laws.

We have laws to protect the citizens of our country.

Therefore, it makes sense to deport people who are caught as they cross the border, or foreign nationals who commit crimes here.

But you and others have failed to explain how deporting someone brought to this country as a kid who has made good grades, been law abiding, and a contributing member of society protects our country?

To the countrary, it could actually be detrimental to our society deporting productive educated people.

Since people in this specialized category of undocumented migrants don't provide a danger to society, there has to be a reason you and others are so adamant about not amending the laws to makes exceptions for these people. There is really little else to explain it other than racism and/or xenophobia.

So many anti-immigrant folk claim their main reason for mass deportation is because they supportnthenrule of law.

It's an intellectually dishonest argument because the law is simply a governmental designation. Amnesty could be granted tomorrow and these people could all become legal residents, but you and your ilk would still not want them here. So, please, quit hiding behind this "I only want the laws enforced" and just admit you flat out don't want these people living in your country.

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Avatar for user 'Abuelita'

Abuelita | January 16, 2012 at 7:37 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

I think that children who have been brought to or sent to this country by their parents and who have graduated from our high schools, meeting whatever criteria it takes to earn a diploma, should be given citizenship as part of their diploma.

This is not as "liberal" as you may think. Once young people have lived in our country, it is extremely unlikely that they are going to want to return to their country of birth. If they have earned a diploma, it is unlike that they are stupid or lazy. They will stay here and work under the radar, maybe or maybe not paying taxes, and not contributing as much as others who have graduated from High School and gone on to advanced training because we force them to live in the shadows without a drivers license and with second class status. It is a conservative notion that we get something back (taxes) from our investment (education) in these children who have earned the right to be tax paying citizens.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 17, 2012 at 7:59 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

De La Rick, love your idea.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 17, 2012 at 8:06 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

CA Offender,, how are they not "victimless"? Remember, deportations are CIVIL proceedings; not criminal proceedins. Look it up or ask any immigration lawyer.

As for your two "legal parientes", get OFF your HIgh Horse because the fall is long! Tell them for me would you please.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 17, 2012 at 8:11 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

One other thing, CA Offender, a high percentage of clandestine border crossers have no intention of remaining and settling permanently in the US, unlike your "parientes". This has been proven time and time again back in the late 70s in studies by Wayne Cornelius as well as a few years ago in studies by Douglas Massey and Jorge Durand. So their ultimate goals were obviously not the same.

As for "contempt," that's a strong word. I have CONTEMPT for the racist, the bigot, the cultural chauvinist, the uninformed, and even more so, the scapegoater.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | January 17, 2012 at 8:12 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm not sure about the others, but my rationale for advocating for enforcement of the law, until it can be amended, is that I do not trust the executive to selectively enforce laws by whim. ALL laws need to be enforced. Those that we, as a society, do not need any longer should be modified or repealed. We have 535 people whose sole job is to make and update those laws. The president gets his veto option, but he SHOULD NOT get to refuse to enforce laws passed by congress. That is dereliction, and undermines separation of powers.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 17, 2012 at 12:30 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

@benz, I do see your point about enforcing laws until they can be amended, but I think illegal immigration falls into a "special" category of crimes in which not even a tiny percentage of those breaking the law can be prosecuted (maybe the only other thing I can think of that can roughly correlate is the War on Drugs - there are so many violators, far more than could ever be entirely prosecuted).

With this in mind, we as a society need to make decisions on *which ones* (which law breakers) to prosecute until the laws become more practical. With limited money and LE resources, prosecuting people like Vargas can actually **hinder** prosecuting more serious offenses. Take the resources from trying to play a futile cat-and-mouse game, and put them on the border itself to stop drug smugglers and human traffickers.

I think you point would be valid if we were in a perfect world with unlimited amounts of money and LE, but we aren't. Everyday DAs make decisions about whether or not to prosecute people, and often times less onerous crimes are set aside to go after bigger fish.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | January 18, 2012 at 7:37 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

On a case by case basis, that is a very valid concern. Of course we target the murderers before the litterers. To stop enforcement of an entire class of crimes by executive fiat is, I believe, an entirely different matter.
To say 'Mr. X, Y or Z is not worth our time to prosecute' is a realistic approach to problem solving.
To say 'We no longer pursue this type of criminal' is not.

This line of thinking leads to some odd, but not untenable, conclusions. There are lots of outdated laws that people no longer know about and are not enforced. I believe they should be (until repealed) for three reasons.
1) It removes ambiguity from the requirement to abide by the law. No one should be expected to have to guess which ones will be enforced on them.
2) It provides strong disincentive to make trivial law. If the cost of enforcement is such that the cure is worse then the diease the law becomes detrimantal and should not be made in the first place.
3) It argues for self-repealing laws. If each law has it's own internal sunset clause then the system cleans itself of superfulous junk. Only the stuff that is currently relevant will be reinvigorated and the other restrictions will dissolve.

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Avatar for user 'Len'

Len | January 22, 2012 at 1:14 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

The arguments that the law should not apply to illegal immigrants (let's not argue sematics) who have done well, fails the first time one of them does ill--doesn't pay taxes, is a deadbeat dad, for example---the law WOULD be applied to them. Despite the examples of Bonnie Dumanis, laws must be applied equally if they are to be respected by the citizenry.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 23, 2012 at 7:56 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

CA Offender: "true Americans" as opposed to "false one."

Offender, you sound more and more like A. Mitchell Palmer--quite fittingly.

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Avatar for user 'M83'

M83 | February 20, 2012 at 10:06 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

we are all immigrants

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Avatar for user 'M83'

M83 | February 20, 2012 at 10:20 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

i agree with duck. if CA offender and others fail to explain how an immigrant who has no fault in being here and simply wants to do things right needs to be deported to ''protect the law'', the only thing that can explain that is being racist. :)

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Avatar for user 'M83'

M83 | February 20, 2012 at 10:29 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Patt Finn, based on your name you are most likely not Hispanic and neither am i just in case you are wondering. The problem is, the two people in your family who obtained citizenship found it only a LITTLE hard to become citizens. Try asking someone from mexico how hard it is to become a citizen and you'll REALLY understand how difficult becoming a citizen really is just based on a country of origin and stereotype.

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Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | February 21, 2012 at 10:35 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

M83: You're right, I am not Hispanic. But you have me mixed up with California Defender, several posts up, who has two legal immigrants in his or her family..

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | February 22, 2012 at 7:18 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Why does anyone believe that gaining US citizenship should be easy, or even possible, for all citizens of other countries?

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | February 23, 2012 at 10:03 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

@PekingDuck - if you actually paid attention to all my posts, you wouldn't need to waste your time ranting on paragraph after paragraph, and again ultimately after much ado falling back on your intellectually dishonest racist card.

My quote: “I really don't care how a person came to be here, if they didn't go through proper channels then somehow, amends must be made."

"Amends' my feathered friend, doesn't have to mean deportation. I never said that. Get off your high horse.

And by the way, I've travelled all around the world and wherever I've been the people like their culture, their language, and just like most Americans have a threshold for foreigners and immigrants. It's the same wherever you go... I guess the whole world must be racist in your book..GASP!

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