Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refused to deport Mr. Jose Antonio Vargas, an admitted illegal alien and felon. The Minnesota State Patrol pulled over Mr. Vargas, who was in Minnesota to give a lecture, for wearing earphones while driving. (Star Tribune, Oct. 6, 2012) When Vargas presented law enforcement with a Washington State driver’s license that had been canceled due to possible fraudulent activity, the State Patrol arrested him and called ICE. (Id.) After his arrest, police took Vargas to the Hennepin County jail, where ICE agents questioned him. He walked out a free man. (New York Times, Oct. 8, 2012)
Mr. Vargas first made headlines in June 2011 for his story in The New York Times Magazine, in which he described his life as an illegal alien in the United States. (New York Times Magazine, June 22, 2011) In that article, he admits not only that he is an illegal alien, but that he has committed multiple crimes in order to stay and work in the United States as a reporter for several well-known newspapers. Audaciously, a year later, Mr. Vargas authored a story for Time Magazine, entitled “Not Legal Not Leaving.” (Time Magazine, June 25, 2012) In this article, he expresses pride in the fact that his actions have encouraged other illegal aliens to publicly admit their illegal status. Regarding the fact that he has not yet been deported, he boasts, “coming out didn’t endanger me; it  protected me.” (Id.)
Indeed, Mr. Vargas’s story presents astonishing evidence that the Obama Administration intends to pick and choose which immigration laws it enforces and when. This becomes only to clear when one considers the fact that Mr. Vargas, in his original article, admits to committing the following offenses:
- Knowingly altering a document prescribed by statute as evidence of authorized employment in the United States, or using or possessing such document, knowing it to be forged or altered: a felony punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. 1546(a). This violation also makes the crime an “aggravated felony” under 8 U.S.C. 101(a)(43)(P).
- Using: an identification document, knowing (or having reason to know) that the document was not issued lawfully for the use of the possessor; an identification document knowing (or having reason to know) that the document is false; and, a false attestation, for the purpose of establishing work authorization: all of which are felonies punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. 1546(b).
- Falsely representing that a Social Security Number is his own (to obtain work): a felony punishable by up to 5 years under 42 U.S.C. 408(a)(7)(A), (b).
- Knowingly using a Social Security Number obtained upon the basis of false information provided by him or another (Vargas states he knew his grandfather used a fake passport to obtain his SSN): a felony punishable by up to 5 years under 42 U.S.C. 408(a)(7)(B), (b).
- Knowingly altering a Social Security Card (Vargas altered the Social Security Card, obtained with a fake passport, to remove words restricting work authorization): a felony punishable by up to 5 years under 42 U.S.C. 408(a)(7)(C), (b).
- Falsely claiming citizenship (on I-9 forms filled out when applying for jobs): a felony punishable by up to three years under 18 U.S.C. 911.
- Knowingly submitting false information or committing fraud in order to obtain a Washington State Driver’s License: a misdemeanor under Washington state law (RCW 46.20.0921(1)(e))
- Knowingly providing false information (including an address) to receive a driver’s license: a Class A misdemeanor under Oregon state law (17 Oregon Rev. Stat. 807.530)
Remarkably, instead of being embarrassed when asked why the law enforcement agency did not detain and begin removal proceedings on Vargas, ICE showed defiance. “Mr. Vargas was not arrested by ICE, nor did the agency issue a detainer,” said an ICE spokeswoman in a statement. (Politico, Oct. 8, 2012) “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.” (Id.)
Not only does ICE’s statement regarding Mr. Vargas demonstrate complete distain for the rule of law, it raises the serious question of whether ICE is even following its own policies on the detention and removal of illegal aliens. The agency’s policy memo on deportation priorities clearly points out that ICE’s first priority for removal is placed on aliens who are a threat to public safety, including terrorists and criminal aliens—and in the latter case felons and aggravated felons in particular. Yet, ICE may still try to claim it is following agency policy as Mr. Vargas was never prosecuted for or convicted of the above crimes. Such an argument, however, leads to no other conclusion that ICE – our nation’s immigration law enforcement agency – intends to turn a blind eye to confessed criminals. Mr. Vargas not only admitted to the entire world that he was an illegal alien and had committed additional serious crimes, he even admitted he knew he was breaking the law when he committed the acts themselves. He wrote that, like most Americans, even he expected the federal government to deport him. However, to-date the Obama Administration has done nothing.