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June 22, 2011

Another Poor Illegal Immigrant Living In The Shadows....And On The Pages Of The NY Times Magazine

The headline is a bit of snark because the whole piece is by Jose Antonio Vargas, who was sent to the US illegally as a kid and did live 'in the shadows' but got tired of it.

It's the usual tale of woe and unfairness by some over achiever who is supposed to represent the norm. Seriously, if you ever listen to Harry Reid or Dick Durbin shilling for the DREAM Act you'd think that every valedictorian in American is an illegal alien. or war hero. Anyway, this particular poster child for the horrors of immigration rules is now a reporter, writer and filmmaker.

His tale begins in the early 90s when he arrived here from the Philippines via a smuggler.

I grew more aware of anti-immigrant sentiments and stereotypes: they don’t want to assimilate, they are a drain on society. They’re not talking about me, I would tell myself. I have something to contribute.

...After I arrived in America, Lolo obtained a new fake Filipino passport, in my real name this time, adorned with a fake student visa, in addition to the fraudulent green card.

Using the fake passport, we went to the local Social Security Administration office and applied for a Social Security number and card. It was, I remember, a quick visit. When the card came in the mail, it had my full, real name, but it also clearly stated: “Valid for work only with I.N.S. authorization.”

When I began looking for work, a short time after the D.M.V. incident, my grandfather and I took the Social Security card to Kinko’s, where he covered the “I.N.S. authorization” text with a sliver of white tape. We then made photocopies of the card. At a glance, at least, the copies would look like copies of a regular, unrestricted Social Security card.

...For more than a decade of getting part-time and full-time jobs, employers have rarely asked to check my original Social Security card. When they did, I showed the photocopied version, which they accepted. Over time, I also began checking the citizenship box on my federal I-9 employment eligibility forms. (Claiming full citizenship was actually easier than declaring permanent resident “green card” status, which would have required me to provide an alien registration number.)

This deceit never got easier. The more I did it, the more I felt like an impostor, the more guilt I carried — and the more I worried that I would get caught. But I kept doing it. I needed to live and survive on my own, and I decided this was the way.

So far his "contributions" are to engage in identity fraud. On behalf of all Americans...um, thanks.


After a choir rehearsal during my junior year, Jill Denny, the choir director, told me she was considering a Japan trip for our singing group. I told her I couldn’t afford it, but she said we’d figure out a way. I hesitated, and then decided to tell her the truth. “It’s not really the money,” I remember saying. “I don’t have the right passport.” When she assured me we’d get the proper documents, I finally told her. “I can’t get the right passport,” I said. “I’m not supposed to be here.”

She understood. So the choir toured Hawaii instead, with me in tow. (Mrs. Denny and I spoke a couple of months ago, and she told me she hadn’t wanted to leave any student behind.)

Ah another fine contribution...screwing your classmates out of an opportunity to visit Japan.

Boy, people are really making out on this kid's contributions, right?

While my classmates awaited their college acceptance letters, I hoped to get a full-time job at The Mountain View Voice after graduation. It’s not that I didn’t want to go to college, but I couldn’t apply for state and federal financial aid. Without that, my family couldn’t afford to send me.

But when I finally told Pat and Rich about my immigration “problem” — as we called it from then on — they helped me look for a solution. At first, they even wondered if one of them could adopt me and fix the situation that way, but a lawyer Rich consulted told him it wouldn’t change my legal status because I was too old. Eventually they connected me to a new scholarship fund for high-potential students who were usually the first in their families to attend college. Most important, the fund was not concerned with immigration status. I was among the first recipients, with the scholarship covering tuition, lodging, books and other expenses for my studies at San Francisco State University.

Well, I'm sure the kid who was either born here or whose parents played by the rules and came to this country legally but didn't get that scholarship money don't mind having to work harder or go without so that you may fulfill your self appointed role of "contributor".

It goes on like this with him getting more and more jobs including working at the Washington Post and the Huffington Post. Again, I'm sure the citizens or legal aliens who didn't get those jobs are ok that they missed out so long as Vargas got to show he could "contribute".

On a human level, sure I feel bad for this guy. He was eight years old when his mother put him on a plane in the Philippines and sent him to the US to live with his grandparents. It's not his fault he's here and it sucks that he's in this mess.

The problem I have with these sad stories being used to generate sympathy is they simply ignore the costs of simply saying, "oh hell, no worries, here's a green card!".

If we do something like pass the DREAM Act we'll simply incentives more people to do something similar. Oh sure they'll say this is a one time only thing but it never it is. There will always be people who will say, "Oh look how wonderful this person is. Sure we said never again but he's got something to contribute! He's a class valedictorian!" And the pressures will start all over again.

Also, I don't know if the SSN this guy used was someone elses (it's his, I should read my own pull quotes) or not but identity theft is a crime and not a victimless one either.

Most importantly, this is is simply a question of who controls the borders of this country, people who say they have "something to contribute" or the people of this country through our elected representatives?

The framing of this debate is tough for enforcement types because we simply have theoretical values on our side, while the open borders/amnesty types have sob stories of real people. The latter is always going to be more compelling.

Sure, we can trot out horrific crimes committed by illegals but that's just the flip side of the valedictorian argument. On average, illegals like this guy who were raised here are, well, average. That's what makes them so compelling as a "victim".

What I'd like to see more of is enforcement types using legal immigrants to this country and people waiting to come here. We need to put as much of a sympathetic face on our arguments as we can. Complain all you want about "image" and "fluff" but framing and marketing matter.

Mostly what bothers me about stories like this and the argument of the amnesty crowd is the point of view seems to be we as a country owe these people something, even if it's just a chance to "contribute". Well, we don't. they or their families broke our laws. That's their problem, not ours. I don't see why we have to ignore their actions and their crowding out of Americans or legal resident aliens from opportunities and jobs.

Living and working in America (or any country for that matter) is a privilege for non-natives, not a right. Yes, we should welcome people who want to come to this country and contribute but on our terms, not because they demand it or claim a right to be here.

As I said, this is a battle for who controls access to this country, the citizens or uninvited guests insisting they be allowed to "contribute" whether we ask them to or not.

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posted by DrewM. at 12:31 PM

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