Posted by Brad @ 9:58 am on June 23rd 2011

Jose Antonio Vargas’ Life as an Undocumented Immigrant

For people who tend to fall on the “no amnesty” side of immigration debates, here’s an article you should read from Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas, “coming out” as being an illegal alien since his parents smuggled him into the country when he was 12. It’s a good read, and there really are a ton of people like him out there. When someone says “illegal immigrant” I think the image immediately called to mind for most Americans is Mexican men doing day labor or migrant farming. Sort of like “muslim” where the archetypal image (angry young brown male in turban with AK-47) is more obfuscatory than clarifying. But, in any case, Vargas’ story is a good read precisely because it gives you a sense of the vast spectrum that the millions of undocumenteds in America live on, from yes, Mexican men doing day labor, to Nigerian IT guys, to Filipino Washington Post reporters. It’s very easy to say “no amnesty”, of course, or “deport them all”, but it’s not only absolutely meaningless, it’s wrong. Even if we COULD deport them all (hint: we can’t), I’m not sure we would want to. In fact, I know we wouldn’t.

It also sheds some light on the whole “assimilation” argument that is at the root of most “anti-immigration” arguments though not as commonly explicitly argued as it was ten years ago. Namely, the gnawing fear that if we let too many foreigners in, they’ll turn American culture foreign and dilute all that makes us us. The thing is: they are ALREADY a part of our culture. Our culture is our culture, America is America, precisely because they are already here, have been here, and will continue to be here. Whatever dilution we fear has already happened – the process of it happening has been constant, and will continue to be constant, and if you love America, you can thank immigration and immigrants for having a large hand in it. And btw, this was as true in the “good old days” – shorthand for a largely-fictional image of 1950s suburban white people – as it is now. We’ve met the immigrant, and he is us.

Anyway, a good personal story. And, interesting footnote: Vargas was the WaPo reporter who featured this blog (and me personally) in a story about Ron Paul’s online success, and who used me as a source a few times on that subject. Nice guy.

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