Don’t Feel Sorry For Jose Antonio Vargas


Filipinos have a long love affair with the “American Dream.” We are willing to bend over backwards just to start a life in the United States and acquire that coveted green card.

We’re all familiar with the stories: doctors re-train as nurses, highly-skilled professionals take up blue-collar jobs, essentially every college student enrolls to nursing courses – all of which are aimed to meet US recruitment needs.

For some this may be seen as desperate, but one has to be impressed at how dedicated these Filipinos are in making their dreams a reality. One could say that at least these Filipino dreamers are relying on skill and hard-work to fulfill their ambitions and legally at that.

Which is why we can’t possibly have any sympathy for those who choose the ‘cut-in-line’ shortcut of achieving the American dream illegally. Case in point is a man named Jose Antonio Vargas, a Philippine-native who is now an undocumented American.

Vargas made headlines in 2011 when he outed himself as an illegal in an op-ed column on the New York Times. He then formed an organization named ‘Define American’ and won a Pulitzer prize for his journalistic efforts. Later he became an icon for the undocumented American, even making it on the cover of TIME magazine.

Now Vargas is in the spotlight once more, not just in the US but also in the Philippines after a recent publicity stunt gone wrong.

While America focuses on a border crisis where thousands of children are illegally crossing the border, Vargas traveled to the Texas Southern border and audaciously told border security officials there that he was an illegal.

As a result, the Filipino-American journalist was apprehended – as was the duty of these security officials – much to the dismay of Vargas’ supporters.

While many may praise Vargas for his work, I belong to the group who are reserving their sympathies for other issues. Vargas and his sympathizers argue that he came to the US as an unaccompanied minor not realizing that what his mom had told him to do was wrong. You can’t possibly blame a 12-year old for a crime, right?

Well that may be true, but throughout Vargas’ adulthood he has broken more laws – all of which he did so fully aware of the consequences.

To evade deportation, Vargas has forged fraudulent documents – which helped him secure an Oregon driver’s license. He has also made false declarations on his immigration status. Both these acts are felonies under United States law, and if Vargas was to be arrested for being undocumented – not only will he be deported back to the Philippines but he will also receive a ten-year re-entry ban for committing those offences.

This is exactly why Jose Antonio Vargas is frantically trying to win the sympathy of other people, because he realizes that the stunt he pulled may have drawn the line.

Many critics call Vargas the ‘most privileged illegal alien’, mainly because he has acknowledged himself to be an illegal immigrant yet freely roams the United States. Even if the current administration of Barack Hussein Obama has deported more than two million undocumented immigrants in his six years of office so far, which is already more than George Bush’s number in his entire eight years.

Yet despite his luck, Vargas chooses to play the victim role and unceasingly makes appearances on media platforms to voice out his plea for a chance for undocumented Americans to be given a path to citizenship.

An opportunity to achieve citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants is only fair, it would not make sense to already be guilty at birth just because of what someone did in the past (unless you’re a Christian.)

The problem with Jose Antonio Vargas’ case is that he had the chance to out himself as an illegal in the past but yet chose to hide as a felon and commit more violations of the law.

Upon starting his career as a journalist, Vargas talked to an immigration lawyer who informed him that he should just accept the consequences of being an illegal immigrant and be deported back to the Philippines.

The defiant Vargas refused to heed that plea and instead forged documents, including using a friend’s address to obtain a driver’s license, in order to continue his stay in the US. He also made false claims about his immigration status and in possession of a doctored green card.

That’s exactly where Jose Antonio Vargas is at fault, he was told of his offence and could have been eligible for amnesty had he come clean in the first place. But instead he chose to see his criminal offences pile up and live in a fraudulent life in the United States.

Above all, Vargas is a big slap to the face of legal migrants – many of whom chose to wait for many years before their applications were approved. The entire process is expensive as well, paying off placement fees, agency fees, airfare costs, moving costs and the like.

Many of the Filipinos who migrate to the U.S. do not even have enough for accommodation upon arriving, and choose to camp in a spare bedroom or a closet of another homeowner. The most desperate make use of a space on the streets or under bridges.

As earlier stated as well, many Filipinos who migrated legally make sacrifices early on such as re-training for a new skill or returning to school to earn another degree just to meet the needs of the United States labor market. Others have to sacrifice by leaving half their families behind, only re-uniting once they have saved enough due to expensive airfare costs.

Many Filipinos have also fallen victims to phony recruitment agencies, in turn losing entire life savings and possessions to these scams. The end result is usually a broken family, an angry lender suing the borrower or the scam victim committing suicide.

Legal immigrants go through real struggles just to achieve the promise of America, not just Filipinos but millions of other people around the world as well. Which is why it becomes insulting when someone as privileged as Jose Antonio Vargas whines and acts like an oppressed victim on television.

Whenever I hear of a story of a Filipina domestic helper who endures beatings from her employer but chooses to be mum about it so she can continue sending money back home, I tear a little inside. Whenever I hear of a father separated from the rest of his family while working in the US, and eats only once every two days just so he could send enough money to put this children through school, I feel an overwhelming amount of sympathy.

Which is why I don’t feel sorry for Jose Antonio Vargas, not one bit at all. He is a successful, prize-winning journalist in the United States despite announcing to the world that he is an illegal. He knowingly broke the law on multiple occasions, to add salt on the injury.

Vargas has adopted his own motto of sorts when narrating his story on media platforms, he asks: ‘what do you want to do to us?’ in a slight taunt at US immigration. Well his arrest at the Texas border should be the answer to that question. Be relentless and deport, don’t let the efforts of millions of legal migrants go to waste.

So if you’re reading this and finding out about Jose Antonio Vargas for the first time, consider yourself informed – this man is no one to feel pity for. Reserve your sympathies for the MH17 victims or those caught in the crossfire in Gaza. Just not for Mr. Vargas.

One thought on “Don’t Feel Sorry For Jose Antonio Vargas

  1. I would probably agree with you on this case, although Mr. Vargas’ case is relatively rare. Few undocumented immigrants are as outspoken or, dare I say, lucky as he. Yes, this man doesn’t deserve our sympathy, but many others do.

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