Skip to comments.Jose Antonio Vargas and the End of Driverís Licenses: If He Doesn't Need One, Who Does?
Posted on 07/16/2014 7:13:34 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
CNN chose to describe the recently detained Jose Antonio Vargas, longtime journalist for U.S. publications and legal citizen of the Philippines, as a symbol of the immigration debate. The news network aired his documentary, Undocumented, several times.
At the heart of Vargass viewpoint and CNNs decision to refer to him as a symbol, as opposed to, say, a scofflaw is the notion that it is unfair to deny citizenship to him, considering his circumstances. Vargas came to the United States from the Philippines when he was 12 and didnt learn he was in the country illegally until he was 16. Now, in his 30s, deportation would send him to a country he has not known since his boyhood days.
Vargass argument and that behind the federal DREAM Act and other, similar legislative efforts is that its unjust or un-American to punish someone for an action he took, often unknowingly, as a child.
But one big problem with Vargas is that hes proven hes quite comfortable violating or ignoring other laws as well, ones that are less disputed or controversial. For example, whatever one thinks of entering the country illegally as a child, falsifying official documents is a different story. Vargas described in the New York Times how he did just that:
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 Kinkos, 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.
From there it became routine lying on federal documents: Over time, I also began checking the citizenship box on my federal I-9 employment eligibility forms.
In the United States, if you want to drive a car, you have to get a drivers license. This law is in place for several reasons, but public safety is preeminent.
Vargas first obtained a drivers license from Oregon by faking documents and using a false address; he had friends mail letters to him at an address that wasnt his home. When his Oregon license expired, he applied for one in the state of Washington, at the time one of two states that did not require applicants to provide Social Security numbers.
He used the false documents regularly; he even used his fraudulent ID to enter the White House grounds to cover a state dinner.
Vargass drivers license was canceled by the state of Washington in July 2011, after he wrote about his illegal or undocumented status the previous month in the New York Times Magazine. He has not had a legal license since. A few days ago, Vargas wrote in Politico: I do not have a single U.S. government-issued ID. Like most of our countrys 11 million undocumented immigrants, I do not have a drivers license not yet, at least. (Vargas has a Philippine passport, so he has photo ID that permits him to get on a plane.)
This means every time Vargas has gotten behind the wheel of a car since July 2011, he has done so in violation of the law and hes gotten caught once.
In October 2012, Vargas was stopped on a highway south of Minneapolis because he was driving with headphones on. The New York Times reported at the time:
After the traffic stop, he was taken to the Hennepin County jail, where he was questioned by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency known as ICE. He was released Friday afternoon with no immigration charges being filed.
Mr. Vargas was not arrested by ICE nor did the agency issue a detainer, said Gillian Christensen, an agency spokeswoman. ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of public safety threats, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States.
Agents determined that Mr. Vargas did not fit any of those priority categories for detention, Ms. Schneider said.
In Minnesota, driving without a valid license carries a $178 fine; driving after suspension, revocation, or cancellation of a license carries a $278 fine.
Vargas hasnt said publicly how much he drives; he wrote in Politico, Ive been traveling non-stop for three years, visiting more than 40 states. He also wrote in his Politico article that hes traveling with a camera crew, so perhaps he wasnt driving on his most recent trip to Texas. Perhaps he uses public transportation, cabs, or Uber, or friends give him rides.
But our laws requiring drivers licenses are pretty simple: If you dont have a valid drivers license or learners permit, youre not allowed to drive. There is no exception in the statute for individuals who have appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Theres no exception for those who have risen to the status of symbol of the immigration debate.
These laws are not an expression of xenophobia or white privilege or demonizing the Other. Once Vargass license from the state of Washington was revoked and he commented about the revocation in news articles, so its not like he can claim he was unaware of the states action he was not legally allowed to get behind the wheel of a car. He did it anyway.
But Vargas felt free to ignore that law and, apparently, to drive with headphones on. He also lied to his employers about his legal status, putting them at legal risk. (Well skip the irony of a journalist, dedicated to uncovering the truth, lying so regularly.)
The process of entering the country illegally sets off a domino effect of law-breaking the illegal entry is followed by falsifying documents, lying on official documents, lying to employers, and then driving without a license. Vargas no doubt believes that all of these crimes were necessary for him to live the American dream. At what point does that justification run out?
Vargas has been compared to Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks.
One of Vargass colleagues quoted him as saying shortly before his arrest, Our America is better than this. Were more humane. Were more compassionate. And were fighting for a better America, a country we love but has yet to recognize us.
Vargass better America looks a lot like an America where he can ignore the laws he doesnt like. If he doesnt think he needs a valid drivers license to drive, why do the rest of us need them?
Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.
Laws are for the peasants.
"Fairness" is such a wonderful word. It is amorphous, it is a touchy, feely, whatever you want it to mean type of word.
We have unequal and capricious enforcement of the law.
It is tyranny.
There is thus, no reason to take away the property of an American child whose parent obtained it by theft. The child had no role in the crime and should not be forced to return to a state of existence which is less than they have become accustomed to.
I can approach this from a different direction.
In Florida, an estimated 500,000 drivers did not have driver’s licenses. The State police said they didn’t have the resources to arrest them, didn’t have jails to put them in, and that it didn’t matter. Why?
Because they had the statistics that proved that having a license or not did not matter compared to being a good driver or not. Relatively speaking there were just as many bad drivers who had licenses as there were bad drivers who did not.
And as far as the State police were concerned, getting the bad drivers of all kinds off the roads was far more important, so should be their priority.
“Shut up!”, the rest of the state government explained to the State police.
The deal is that there really isn’t a need to license drivers. Thus the biggest reason for driver’s licenses is as a form of ID. But the state issues just regular ID as well, so why not use that?
Typically, the public thinks that licenses serve some purpose, so they are least likely to want to abolish them. They also have emotional reasons to want such licenses, such as making them feel mature and empowered, and because they like their convenience as a photo ID. They imagine the alternative of no licenses would cause anarchy.
Practically speaking, there is a purpose for a Lerner’s permit and driver’s education, to get the majority of people trained to be good drivers. But after that, unless there is a legal reason to evaluate their driving skills, licenses are pretty much an expensive waste of time.
This Vargas law breaker has the same mind set as the illegal cockroaches crossing our border. Even if there were amnesty given to them, their lack of respect for laws would just mean they would break other laws. As Americans, we should want laws for the good of the entire country. Those that don’t respect laws or blatantly break laws are well, criminals. We don’t need any more criminals living here in the US, we have enough already as it is.
Exactly! All this prattle about IDs and documents and driving and check marks on forms and this and that. Just deport his sorry @ss. No explanations, no apologies. End of story.
an action he took, often unknowingly, as a child.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse.