You may or may not recall the story of Jose Antonio Vargas, the “undocumented worker” who became a reporter talking about immigration issues. As part of his “journey” to reach the American Dream, he obtained a drivers license in Washington State, allowing him to move about more freely and eventually obtain employment. Well, it seems that the drivers license in question is what wound up getting him in trouble in Minnesota this week.
Jose Antonio Vargas, the writer and activist who went public last year with his status as an undocumented immigrant, was arrested for a driving infraction in Minnesota on Friday, but federal immigration authorities did not detain him or take any other action, officials said Saturday.
Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter who revealed his status in The New York Times Magazine and touched off a debate in the journalistic community, was initially pulled over by a state trooper for driving while wearing head phones, Eric Roeske, public information officer for the Minnesota state patrol, told POLITICO.
The story was originally reported in the MinnPost, (which now has more corrections and walkbacks than any article in recent memory) but was picked up by Politico in the article linked above. The officer making the original arrest – for what was obviously a minor traffic infraction – indicated that there may have been “fraudulent activity associated” with the drivers license. After determining that the driver might be in the country illegally, he contacted ICE in accordance with the Secure Communities program, instituted originally under the Bush administration.
So what did ICE do?
An ICE official with knowledge of the situation said in an email that “Mr. Vargas was not arrested by ICE and no detainer was issued.”
An immigration detainer is a notice issued from the Department of Homeland Security to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that tells them, “ICE intends to assume custody of an individual in [those agencies’] custody,” according to the ICE website.
This episode is rather confusing… at least to me. The entire immigration issue is such a mess these days that I rarely wade into it, and easy answers are not to be found. I also understand the point which some opponents make when they say that you simply can’t locate, round up and deport more than 20 million people scattered across the country. But 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?