In June of this year, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas caused a major stir when he announced to the world that he was an undocumented immigrant in his affecting New York Times article, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.”
In the two months since the article was published, Vargas and the Define American campaign have been the talk of the immigrant debate in the United States. Vargas has been featured on or in dozens of media outlets, telling his fascinating story, promoting his campaign, which he co-founded, and calling for comprehensive, humane immigration reform.
Unsurprisingly, Vargas has received a great deal of backlash, most notably from the anti-immigrant movement here in the United States.
The most vocal of the anti-immigrant groups opposing Vargas and the campaign is the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an organization founded by white nationalist John Tanton back in 1985. CIS executive director Mark Krikorian was interviewed on NPR after Vargas’s appearance. He argued that Vargas should leave the United States and go back to the Philippines. Krikorian also argued that Vargas, because he moved to the US at age 12, should not be eligible for the DREAM Act because, according to Krikorian, Vargas’s “identity” was not formed in the United States. Last week, CIS continued its rant against Vargas, calling him an “illegal alien fraudster,” among other things.
All of this seriously begs the question, why is CIS so scared of Vargas?
The honesty Vargas displayed in coming out as an undocumented immigrant, of course, has made him a threat to CIS because honesty and transparency are two traits that CIS and Mark Krikorian have simply never possessed—and therefore cannot handle. Vargas is everything that CIS exists to prove that undocumented immigrants are not—smart and articulate, honest, hardworking contributors to American society who, yes, pay their taxes. CIS, point blank, represents the antithesis to such values. It skews data and is far from transparent about both how it was founded and its history of ties to white nationalists. Vargas may be above average, but so are millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
How fragile and vulnerable must CIS be to feel so threatened by this one man?
When immigrants are humanized, the American public can’t agree with the natvist’s bigoted views on immigrants and immigration. CIS dubs immigrants “third world gold diggers,” and calls Muslims a “vicious people.” Vargas is neither, yet he is still considered public enemy #1 by CIS.
It’s absurd to believe that one man can cause such a threat. Perhaps, though, CIS is starting to lose its touch.