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2011’s Smartest Moments in Pop Culture


9
The Award-winning, Undocumented Journalist
In July 2011, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas confessed to being an illegal immigrant in an essay for The New York Times Magazine.
In July 2011, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas confessed to being an illegal immigrant in an essay for The New York Times Magazine.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In a cover story published in The New York Times Magazine, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas confessed to being an undocumented immigrant living illegally in the United States. In doing so, Vargas, who was born in the Philippines and entered the country at age 12, potentially risked deportation and stoked controversy among the mainstream media outlets he had worked for, including The Washington Post and Huffington Post.

Vargas said he was motivated to publish the essay because, at age 30, he was weary of concealing his illegal status from employers and acquaintances, a process which included using a falsified Social Security card. He also used the prominent platform to rally support for passage of the DREAM Act, legislation that would open up routes to U.S. citizenship for undocumented students who were raised and educated in American schools [source: Vargas]. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deported almost 400,000 illegal immigrants, the highest number on record [source: Gomez and Johnson].

Since Vargas doesn't pose a direct threat to national security and has no previous criminal record, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency may well leave him alone [source: Dade]. His on-the-record deception of media organizations may prove a more haunting force, however, since such behavior flies directly in the face of fact-driven journalism ethics. For instance, Vargas originally pitched his essay to The Washington Post, but it was ultimately declined due to his history of lying [source: Shafer].


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