Jose Antonio Vargas, renowned “undocumented immigrant” and journalist, is back in the news. You may recall that ICE actually apprehended the illegal alien in 2012 in Minnesota, but mysteriously just let him go. Then, earlier this summer, they finally arrested him again in Texas. But after being arraigned, he was released on his own recognizance yet again and the case seems to be sitting on the back burner, with many observers believing that nothing will ever come of it. How many times can you bring the same fish into the boat and keep throwing him back over the side?
Vargas clearly has no fear of the law, since he has published yet another op-ed at Vanity Fair, injecting himself into the upcoming referendum in Oregon over the idea of issuing drivers licenses to illegals.
A driver’s license has carried an outsized meaning in my life. While trying to get a license at age 16—four years after my mother in the Philippines sent me to live with my grandparents in California—I found out I was in the country illegally. My grandfather bought a green card to smuggle me to the U.S.; I discovered it was fake when I was at the D.M.V. Six years later, I landed a summer internship at The Washington Post. When the recruiter asked me if I had a license, I said no and assured her I didn’t need one. I could walk. I could take the bus or subway. I could even hitchhike if I needed to. The recruiter, however, was firm. I couldn’t show up in Washington, D.C., for the job without a valid license. Set on the internship, yet scared that I might be risking too much, I spent two weeks researching how I could get a license.
Well, he did eventually get a license… from Oregon, even though he was planning to work in Washington, D.C. And now he is imploring the voters of Oregon to vote yes on Measure 88 at the ballot booth next week. This measure will essentially either validate or overturn Senate Bill 833 which directs the Department of Transportation to issue “driver cards” to eligible Oregon residents without requiring proof of legal presence in United States.
Vargas talks with great passion about how important it was to him personally to be able to obtain a drivers license while being in the country illegally. And that should be exactly the point as voters go to the polls on this question. We need to be encouraging aspiring immigrants to follow the rules and enter the country legally. At that time, they will be able to get a license and any other forms of documentation they require. Loopholes such as this law simply provide additional incentive for people to continue breaking the law by making it easier to skirt the rules and live outside the system.
It’s also an interesting side note that Vargas is taking such an interest in a measure where he will not even be able to legally vote. (At least I hope he can’t.)