ICE has the chance to catch Jose Antonio Vargas RIGHT NOW

posted at 9:31 am on July 13, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

It’s somewhat ironic that CNN is, today, touting the premier of their new show The Hunt (with John Walsh) tonight at the same time as they are still featuring the documentary Documented by Jose Antonio Vargas. The irony – since they seem oblivious to it – is that the former is a show dedicated to catching criminals who are on the loose, while the latter is produced by one of the people we should ostensibly be looking for. Vargas is in the country illegally, and yet somehow appears on multiple television programs, produces films and seems to earn a fine living writing for multiple political outlets.

The office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would, one might assume, have a particular interest in this case. After all, they actually had their hands on Vargas back in 2012 but chose to let him go. I will commit the sin of quoting myself here, because at the time I noted the following:

Mr. Vargas appears to be in the country illegally by his own admission on multiple occasions. (I can find no source stating otherwise or any indication that he’s gotten into any sort of DREAMER documentation or what have you, but stand ready to edit this if that’s not true.) With that in mind, it does leave one with what seems a pertinent observation. Okay… we get that you can’t find and deport 20 million people. But it seems like you could have found this guy without a lot of extra resources, eh?

Well, ICE… now is your moment of golden opportunity. Vargas has put virtual pen to paper again this weekend to bemoan the fact that he is currently “trapped” on the Texas border and is afraid that he might not be able to get out of the area because he still lacks any documents granting him the right to be in this country legally. He writes this missive from McAllen, Texas.

In the last 24 hours I realize that, for an undocumented immigrant like me, getting out of a border town in Texas—by plane or by land—won’t be easy. It might, in fact, be impossible…

Tania Chavez, an undocumented youth leader from the Minority Affairs Council, one of the organizers of the vigil, asked me the same question: “How will you get out of here?” Tania grew up in this border town. As the day wore on, as the reality of my predicament sunk in, Tania spelled it out for me: You might not get through airport security, where Customs and Border Protection (CPB) also checks for IDs, and you will definitely not get through the immigration checkpoints set up within 45 miles of this border town. At these checkpoints, you will be asked for documentation. (“Even if you tell them you’re a U.S. citizen, they will ask you follow-up questions if they don’t believe you,” Tania told me.)

Vargas then goes on to definitively confess – or more correctly, brag – about his current illegal status.

I do not have a single U.S. government-issued ID. Like most of our country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, I do not have a driver’s license—not yet, at least… Identification aside, since outing myself in the New York Times Magazine in June 2011, and writing a cover story for TIME a year later, I’ve been the most privileged undocumented immigrant in the country. The visibility, frankly, has protected me. While hundreds of thousands of immigrants have been detained and deported in the past three years, I produced and directed a documentary film, “Documented,” which was shown in theaters and aired on CNN less than two weeks ago.

Let’s identify why this is an important arrest for you ICE guys and gals to to make. It’s true that the White House administration has added to our current border crisis by sending mixed messages to those who would enter the country illegally. That goes without saying. But coming in a close second is this guy. He’s out there on an almost daily basis, showing up on a network which is broadcast to every nation in the world. And the message he’s sending is clear. “Look at me! I’m here illegally. I don’t have any documents. And I’m on the TeeVee! I produce films. I get paid to write columns in nationally syndicated sources. And nobody can lay a finger on me!”

Is that the message you want out there? Is this not adding to the “confusion” among Central American residents thinking of sneaking over the border? Obviously not. So here’s what you need to be doing:

– First, you need to find and arrest this guy.
– Next he needs to be put in a detention center.
– Expedite his case to the front of the line and give him a speedy hearing before a judge where it will be revealed that he has no documents allowing him to be here.
– Put him on a plane and send him back to the Philippines where he belongs.
– Hold a major press conference letting everyone in the world know that you’ve done this and repeating that you will not tolerate those who knowingly and intentionally violate our laws.
– Let Mr. Vargas go to the back of the line and apply for citizenship in the normal fashion. Given the usual wait times, we should see him again in ten to fifteen years.

So what say you get on the stick here. Are you having trouble finding him? Let me help you out. Here’s a picture.

That’s him! That’s the guy! He’s in McAllen, Texas. (Here’s a Google map in case you’re lost.) He’s at an immigrant shelter down by the border. And the guy isn’t just going to blend in with all the other border jumpers from Mexico and Central America. He’s from the Philippines, so he should stand out like a sore thumb. And he’s traveling with a film crew! How hard can it be to locate him?

This is your moment, ICE. Go do your jobs.

Update: (Jazz) Doug Mataconis has read my logic and found it wanting.

While those are all valid arguments, it just doesn’t strike me that Vargas is someone who ought to be a target for an immigration enforcement system that is already overburdened, and likely to become more so thanks to the ongoing border crisis. Like many people who are in a similar position, Vargas was brought to this country as a child and thus had no say in whether or not he wanted to become an illegal immigrant to the United States. Since graduating High School, he’s gotten an education, been gainfully employed, won a prestigious journalism award, and had produced work that has employed many other people. He’s apparently never been on public assistance and, outside of things related to his immigration status, he has never committed a serious crime, and most certainly has never committed a violent crime. He has also become an important part of the public debate on a very important issue. Regardless of whether or not he has a piece of paper saying he is in the country legally, is this really someone that we ought to be prioritizing as a candidate for deportation? I find it hard to say that the answer to this question is yes. In fact, I’d argue that Vargas is precisely the kind of illegal immigrant that we ought to want to grant legal status to so that he can more fully participate in the economy and the public life of his adopted country. Rather than being a walking advertisement for deportation, he strikes me as more of a walking advertisement for why comprehensive immigration reform is necessary. There are many people in Vargas’s position, he just happens to be the most prominent, public example.

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Start with tax evasion and go after the people who paid him. The IRS can do that…oh, sorry.

katy the mean old lady on July 13, 2014 at 9:47 AM

Not sure if this has been said yet or not…but isn’t it illegal to hire and pay an un-documented worker? Shoudln’t those media outlet be investigated over these actions? I’ve heard it said many times by the Libs that the reason so many folks coem here illegaly is because companies and busniesses hire them, usually it’s put on the farmer’s/ food producers (Tyson) so I guess the big lefty news corps that hire illegals are OK with them ??

Von Kleist on July 14, 2014 at 11:08 AM

Great idea!

Let’s start with Phill Bronstein who admits in the column below to hiring Jose Antonio Vargas to work at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Then Peter Perl of the Washington Post has some ‘splainin’ to do.

Then Washington Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli should be called in for questioning.

Then former Washington Post Managing Editor Phil Bennett should be asked to tell the rest of the story.

I was duped. I once hired an illegal immigrant to be a reporter for the Chronicle.

“I don’t think I’m a criminal,” Jose Antonio Vargas told me when we met last week, right before he announced his status to the world. “Don’t make me seem guiltier than I am.”

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. In 2003 he wrote a story for us about illegals getting fake drivers’ licenses in the Mission when he’d used phony documents to get his own. He told me last week that he decided then that was a serious conflict of interest and wouldn’t cover immigration any more. But he later wrote on the topic for the Post.

Even though I didn’t know he was a lawbreaker when he worked for me, and he left the paper in 2004, his story lands me a little more directly in the atrociously rudderless but vicious debate on immigration reform.

While publicity and good lawyers may save his residency, the most likely road kill in the Jose conflagration could be Peter Perl, a Post training editor who knew the secret and kept it. The Post said ominously that what he did “was wrong.” It’s the knowing that sideswiped careers of people like Meg Whitman and failed federal job candidates Zoe Baird and Bernard Kerik.

Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli told me “what Jose did was wrong. It’s a compelling and interesting story” and Jose is a “talented and imaginative guy.” But Brauchli seems to feel duped.

No so much former Post managing editor – now managing editor at Frontline, Phil Bennett. “I’m torn,” Bennett said when I spoke with him a few days ago. “Honesty matters. But what Jose has done is courageous and I admire him for it.”Jose is a hustler, what one friend called “a classic self-promoter” who wisely identified those who could and would help him. He had to be to maintain the life he did. He refers to the “underground railroad” of secret allies and assistance, but his was like a posh lounge car, not a grape field.

wren on July 14, 2014 at 4:53 PM

Ice him Meow!

Bmore on July 14, 2014 at 4:53 PM

It’s showtime!

ncinca on July 15, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Drat, the link didn’t work.

ncinca on July 15, 2014 at 10:54 AM

I feel so much safer now.

triple on July 15, 2014 at 11:23 AM