Jose Antonio Vargas was a writer for the Washington Post and the Huffington Post. He shares a Pulitzer prize for coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. He has written lots of very important stories during his time as a journalist for big publications. If you were to make a first impression of him based on these facts, “illegal immigrant” probably wouldn’t come to mind.
Except for that part where he is. He outed himself and his legal status in the New York Times on Wednesday by telling the whole story, from his arrival in the United States to the forging of the documents needed to make it here. There are a few remarkable things about his story, his accomplishments aside, most notably that only once did anyone suspect anything.
I want to talk about the sad part. Ideally the United States (and of course many other countries) would want to bring in bright minds from other countries if they can provide something of value. To do this, of course, you have to work hard and prove your worth. This is why many people leave their home country to study: in the hopes of working hard, showing their worth and work ethic, and eventually making a better life for themselves. Jose didn’t do that, of course; he came to the U.S. at twelve and worked his way up. But the idea of working hard to become a citizen is a major theme in the story, and those dreams of becoming a legal resident were shattered, despite everything he accomplished.
Unfortunately I don’t have any easy answers, or any at all. Arizona and Georgia (yes, my home state) think they’re solving immigration problems by their ridiculous immigration laws, but those laws do nothing about helping immigrants who want to come in legally do so, which is what we really need. We have to solve this problem at the root.