Jose Antonio Vargas is the sort of journalist all the little journalists want to be like. A former reporter for The Washington Post and Senior Contributing Editor for the Huffington Post, Vargas was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings. He accomplished all this by the age of 30.
On Wednesday, Vargas revealed that he is an illegal alien.
“One day when I was 16, I rode my bike to the nearby D.M.V. office to get my driver’s permit. Some of my friends already had their licenses, so I figured it was time. But when I handed the clerk my green card as proof of U.S. residency, she flipped it around, examining it. ‘This is fake,’ she whispered. ‘Don’t come back here again,’” Vargas recalled in a 4,000-word essay for The New York Times Magazine.
From that day forward, Vargas says, he has lived in constant fear of being found out: “I am… an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am… It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful.”
Vargas decided to tell his story as part of his work with the illegal alien advocacy group, Define American, which he founded. The group promotes passage of the DREAM Act, Federal legislation that offers permanent residency to illegal aliens who came to the United States as minors.
Vargas initially offered the story to his former employers at The Washington Post, but they turned him down.
“Until last week, Vargas’s article was scheduled to run in The Post’s Outlook section,” the paper said in an article responding to Vargas’ piece. “But Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli killed the story several days before it was scheduled to be published. ‘We made a considered judgment not to publish the story,’ Brauchli said Wednesday. ‘We knew Jose would take his story elsewhere, and we’re not surprised he found a venue for his interesting account.’”
The paper was not specific about why they turned down the story, but The Post article said that, after Vargas failed to disclose some information to the paper, it “set off (an) internal discussion about whether the newspaper was getting the full story from its former reporter.”