America’s dark, little secrets are everywhere. They are cleaning our homes, maintaining our lawns, and taking care of our children. They even help out on the weekends digging ditches.
But this past weekend, we found out they do a lot more than just manual labor.
Jose Antonio Vargas, a young, up-and-coming, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, admitted his dark little secret. He’s an illegal immigrant. Not only is his status in this country: illegal immigrant, but he’s been working illegally the entire time he’s been in the U.S.
Oh, boy, what was he thinking? Why did he work illegally in this country for so long? As a journalist, and a journalist who covered immigration issues in the past, he knew full well the implications of doing what he did. So, why did he do it? Why did he work illegally? And, why did he come out about it now?
Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? His parents came over illegally and brought him along. He couldn’t very well jump back on a boat to the Philippines when he was sixteen to protest his parents actions, now could he? Would you have? No. I didn’t think so.
And once he’s here, he goes to school here, and starts a life here. What else is there to do? And after that starts happening, what do you think the chances of him going back home would be? That’s not home anymore.
This is the quagmire of illegal immigration many individuals, communities, and countries are faced with today. The issues are not black and white. Though we know what he did was wrong, not one of us would do different if in the same position. We’d all hide our dark, little secret and would live with the lie.
That has got to grate on the nerves. Imagine knowing that at any moment, the jig could be up. It only takes a quick internet form to thoroughly check identification with the Social Security Administration. I’m sure there’s ways of getting around that. Most folks don’t report a missing or stolen social security card, and databases are not often kept up to date – folks die left and right every day. But, still, if you use illegal documents, sooner or later, something will slip or someone will actually fill out the form and find out something is amiss. And once that happens, it can only lead to the inevitable: the truth.
One of the reasons Mr. Vargas gave as to why he came out with his story was because he was tired of living the lie. Also, he wants to hold up his life, his example, to show just how complicated the immigration issue is in this country and that it’s a problem we have to deal with.
I am glad he came out. No matter what folks say about him, it took an incredible amount of courage to own up to it. He could have left the country and made a life for himself back in the Philippines, unbeknownst to any of us. His actions bring the immigration issues front and center. Obviously, this was his intention, and though, nothing is likely to come of it, maybe, just maybe, the next time an initiative like the Dream Act comes up again, maybe folks will try a bit harder to find a solution.
Full disclosure: I am the product of a U.S. citizen, oh, all right, a Texan (different thing from just a plain old U.S. citizen) and a legal immigrant. My father, and his family, regularly traveled between Mexico and the California’s central valley under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act (previously the Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act). They often worked for contractors who took care of all the legal mumbo-jumbo. I’m sure they may have over stayed their visas here and there, but, in general, my father’s family moved back and forth with the tide of seasons and visa acquisitions. Later, my father, having married a U.S. citizen and now a different kind of legal immigrant, settled in the area and soon took part in the U.S. Citizenship program. He’s no different from you and I. (Funny thing, as life would have it, I would do the very same thing for my husband. I married a Kiwi (a New Zealand native), and he is a now a resident alien.)