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The only IDs I have: Philippine passport and my pocketbook Consitution
July 15, 2014 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas has been detained attempting to leave McAllen Airport in Texas. As Mr. Vargas wrote in Politico on July 11, he had traveled to Texas to document the crisis of undocumented immigrants before realizing that he might, in fact, be stuck there. His film, Documented, which just began airing on CNN last month, "chronicles his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his journey through America as an immigration reform activist; and his journey inward as he re-connects with his mother, whom he hasn't seen in person in over 20 years."
posted by roomthreeseventeen (95 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 


I wonder if anyone tried to get a sympathetic politician involved first or if he just hoped no one would notice at the airport? I can just imagine the sinking feeling when he realized how stuck he was.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:10 AM on July 15


Dang! I love that guy ever since he favorited a tweet I mentioned him in.
posted by mathowie at 10:11 AM on July 15 [2 favorites]


Can't he just self-deport? It's the not-really-'Murican way!
posted by zombieflanders at 10:13 AM on July 15


Damn. I've been watching this unfold on Twitter, and I just assumed he'd figure out some way out of there.

I don't envy the Obama administration: it seems like they're fucked no matter how they handle this.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:22 AM on July 15


If his remaining stranded were to become politically inexpedient at a Federal level, someone could just see that he got granted a visa, and voilà — problem solved. Which is what I expect will happen sooner or later.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:22 AM on July 15


The lack of detail is confusing. Where was he going and where was he coming from?

From Vox: "Vargas traveled to McAllen, Texas [...] Only after he arrived, as he wrote in Politico, did he realize it would be difficult for him to get back." Back to where?

"In fact, it's not clear how Vargas managed to get through the Border Patrol road checkpoints at all."

He drove to Mexico? Or what? If he drove, why is he in an airport? There was something about seeing his mother for the first time in 20 years - does that mean he went to the Philippines?

I'm not opposed to anything he stands for, I'm just trying to understand what's going on so I can be appropriately outraged.
posted by desjardins at 10:23 AM on July 15 [2 favorites]


He's a very high-profile spokesperson for people who were brought to the US illegally as children, desjardins, and he's been traveling around the country promoting a documentary he made about his situation. (The documentary, called *Documented*, was shown on CNN last week. I assume they'll rebroadcast it now.) He went to McAllen from somewhere else in the US, not from Mexico. He can usually fly around the US with no problem on his passport from the Philippines. McAllen is one of the only places in the US where there is border security on domestic flights.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:26 AM on July 15 [3 favorites]


From Vox: "Vargas traveled to McAllen, Texas [...] Only after he arrived, as he wrote in Politico, did he realize it would be difficult for him to get back." Back to where?

This link says he was trying to fly to Houston from McAllen. McAllen seems to be, as the Vox article says, in the "Constitution Free Zone" a 100-mile wide strip that wraps around the “external boundary” of the United States where normal immigration policy apparently doesn't apply.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:27 AM on July 15 [2 favorites]


He went to an American city that you can't leave without going through Border Patrol checkpoints. It was an amateur move on his part, because they run those checkpoints all over the border region and there are a number of places with no way out except through checkpoints. They run them way north of the border, not just along the line.

I really feel for the guy, and I wish someone had warned him. If this embarrassed the White House into doing something that would be wonderful, but so far they have been immune from embarrassment on this issue.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:29 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the clarification. I didn't know there was border security on any domestic flights so I assumed he was coming from outside the country, which seemed rather dumb on his part.
posted by desjardins at 10:29 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


He drove to Mexico? Or what?

These are interior checkpoints, on US roads.
At border checkpoints, officers routinely stop all cars and ask if the occupants are citizens. The people in the car don't have to answer that question, but, according to a Border Patrol spokesperson, "they will not be allowed to proceed until the inspecting agent is satisfied that the occupants of vehicles traveling through the checkpoint are legally present in the U.S."

…These checkpoints aren't specific to South Texas. They're located along both the southwestern and northern borders of the US, in what the ACLU calls the "Constitution-Free Zone": the 100 miles within the United States border where Border Patrol can legally do things that, anywhere else in the country, would be considered violations of the Fourth Amendment. That includes the questioning of all drivers at interior checkpoints, as well as the search of electronic devices at the border.
posted by zamboni at 10:30 AM on July 15 [5 favorites]


Wow. I'm sure he'll figure out a way out if this, but the situation of the 28 year old woman he mentions is crazy. To have lived here for 14 years but not be able to go within a 45 mile radius of your town by air or by car? Imagine being trapped like that.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:31 AM on July 15


I really feel for the guy, and I wish someone had warned him.

Well, in the Politico link he said his friend - an immigration lawyer - warned that he might not be able to get back.
posted by desjardins at 10:31 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Can't he just self-deport? It's the not-really-'Murican way!

To the Philippines, where he hasn't lived since he was 12 and may not have much to do? Or to anyother country, where he'll at best be in legal limbo but with no support network?
posted by psoas at 10:32 AM on July 15


@Dip Flash: I don't believe for a moment this was accidental. He's an activist who knows these issues better than almost anyone. His career is exploring exactly this situation. And now, arguably while he has the most visibility he's ever going to have (a 24hr news channel showing his documentary) he's leveraged it to bring more awareness to the issue.

I'm not going to call it a "stunt", because the danger is real that he'll be deported. But I'm also not going to buy the narrative that's being spun.

And you know, carefully planned situations like this have a way of effecting change. See Also: Rosa Parks.
posted by sbutler at 10:34 AM on July 15 [20 favorites]


Also, I'm no expert on the state of gay rights in the Philippines, but couldn't he be eligible for an asylum claim?
posted by psoas at 10:42 AM on July 15


Has the SCOTUS ruled on the legality of those extended boarder zones?
I mean who the fuck knows how they'd actually come down on the issue, but if it hasn't gone before the SC I'd think it definitely should, so even if it's morally questionable it'd at least be clear cut legal.
posted by edgeways at 10:53 AM on July 15


These are interior checkpoints, on US roads.

Not just roads: Vargas was detained at an airport, trying to get on a domestic flight. The "Border" Patrol (whose name is rapidly turning into Newspeak) says it's allowed to make everyone produce their papers then, too. It's shocking to me how few people in the US know about this, considering how reminiscent of apartheid-era South Africa it is, but then similarly (at least in the case of the internal checkpoints I've been through myself) white skin seems to be more or less an instant pass, so the impact may not make itself as palpable as it should to everyone.
posted by RogerB at 11:06 AM on July 15 [8 favorites]


He has a US college degree. He has an established professional resume as a journalist working for some of the top US news outlets. There is no reason he can't live quite well in his country of origin. I have substantially less concern for him than the plane load of kids we deported yesterday. Those kids have nothing to go back to, unclear support systems and were fleeing pretty terrible violence and horrors. Congress is about to appropriate 3.7 billion dollars so that we can send those kids back faster.
posted by humanfont at 11:10 AM on July 15 [2 favorites]


A number of interesting things going on here. If he is let go, the GOP will be all over the Administration. If he is shipped back, many of us will be saddened. We often noted that illegals came here because employers hired them for cheap labor and that attracted them. Oddly,then CNN knew he was illegal but bought and will show his film.

My leftist friends note that during the nazi period we refused to let refugees in. Thus they now note, we have a massive refugee issue with young children. But is that the same? Empty out 3 central Am states because they are failed nations?

Meanwhile the coyotes (the guys who deliver the kids to the border) are earning average 5 thou per week.

Answers appreciated to this sticky issue by the bright folks who come to this site.
What think?
posted by Postroad at 11:24 AM on July 15


These checkpoints aren't specific to South Texas.

Gathering together the bits of anecdotes from my personal experience:

These are very common in south Texas. I remember a giant, permanent installation on I-35 that stopped everyone driving north from Laredo in the mid-1990s. At that time, there was nothing to stop you from going south, but lots to stop you from going north.

My understanding is that theoretically, this could be done at any U.S. border. I've never seen anything like it along the Minnesota or North Dakota borders, I'd be interested to hear if anyone has experienced otherwise.
posted by gimonca at 11:32 AM on July 15


We're definitely between a rock and a hard place right now; absorbing thousands of destitute kids seems untenable, but deportation is cruel when we're sending them back to certain poverty and probable violence.

I feel less conflicted about adult immigrants because they can and will work to support themselves, but how are we going to support the hundreds of kids that arrive every day? If we have the resources to do that, why haven't we been taking care of the poverty that already existed here? (This is mostly rhetorical; it's complicated and political.)
posted by desjardins at 11:37 AM on July 15


Oddly,then CNN knew he was illegal but bought and will show his film.

The point of this statement is lost on me. They can buy anyone's work they want. His status is meaningless in regards to this.

My leftist friends ... But is that the same? Empty out 3 central Am states because they are failed nations?

First - the phrase 'my leftist friends' turns all of this commentary on its ear. In my view, you're basically using leftist in the same terminology that people refer to rebels and revolutionaries in central america, attempting to verbally other and disenfranchise people with differing views from you. This smacks, to me, of spoiling for a fight.

Second - the question. No, you're right it isn't the same. It's worse. A lot worse. These children lack perspective, means and ability to advocate for themselves for the most part.

Additionally in re: the WW2 perspective bit - We know that there could be dire consequences to returning them. We don't even know what they are. Why subject children to a devil that no one is sure of.

We have the means and ability to help them. We should help them. It is the right thing in an absolute sense to help them and give them shelter and aid. They didn't ask to be born and they didn't create their situation. We should help them because we can.

As to who should pay. We all should, but I understand if you don't. Well i don't understand if you don't - i understand that some people feel a detachment from people from other places that allows them to turn their backs on them. I can't do this.
posted by Fuka at 11:38 AM on July 15 [9 favorites]


These checkpoints aren't specific to South Texas.

Nope, I've been stopped by border patrol a few times in Vermont, most recently last week. It was the first time I could answer yes, I am an American citizen, and it was a little nervewracking - will they believe me? - to be honest.
posted by gaspode at 11:44 AM on July 15


I've never seen anything like it along the Minnesota or North Dakota borders, I'd be interested to hear if anyone has experienced otherwise.

I've only personally experienced checkpoints in Texas, but I've read about seasonal checkpoints in Maine and upstate New York, and this article mentions new checkpoints in North Dakota and Minnesota.
posted by bradf at 11:46 AM on July 15


My understanding is that theoretically, this could be done at any U.S. border. I've never seen anything like it along the Minnesota or North Dakota borders, I'd be interested to hear if anyone has experienced otherwise.

The Border Patrol occasionally boards buses in Rochester along the New York State Thruway. A lot of this probably has to do with the fact that since the ferry to Toronto disappeared ten years ago, there are not actually any ports of entry in the Rochester sector. But last time I was on a bus that was boarded, they did seem to understand that they could not force U.S. citizens to produce identity documents.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:48 AM on July 15


Oh correction, upstate NY, not Vermont. The northern-most part of I-87. (We were driving home from VT.)
posted by gaspode at 11:51 AM on July 15


These interior checkpoints are really fucking creepy. My understanding is they are pretty well tested in the courts now but I'm not up on the details: United States v. Martinez-Fuerte seems relevant.

I have an English friend who got caught up in one of these checkpoints near El Paso. He was in the US legally and said some choice words to the rude officer who stopped him. Who then triple checked and decided there was enough question about his visa that they could put him in jail. For a weekend. With no phone call. He said it was pretty terrible, abusive, but as an English-speaking white guy he was pretty well off compared to most of the Latino folks being held.

Land of the free.
posted by Nelson at 11:51 AM on July 15 [10 favorites]


He's been detained before. Probably no big deal this time.

I am confused about how you are supposed to prove citizenship at an airport while getting on a domestic flight. If they ask for your license, can't you just say you forgot it and walk away? Or if you lose your license are you at risk of randomly being arrested anywhere you go now?

The Wikipedia edit wars on Vargas's page are spectacular and horrifying. There seem to be a lot of xenophobic racists on the Internet.
posted by miyabo at 12:18 PM on July 15


miyabo: There seem to be a lot of xenophobic racists on the Internet.

Welcome, please enjoy your stay. There are also cat videos!
posted by tonycpsu at 12:20 PM on July 15 [11 favorites]


If they ask for your license, can't you just say you forgot it and walk away? Or if you lose your license are you at risk of randomly being arrested anywhere you go now?

If you're not white? Essentially, yes.
posted by elizardbits at 12:21 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Aren't you required to have some form of ID to get on any flight?
posted by desjardins at 12:23 PM on July 15


Aren't you required to have some form of ID to get on any flight?

Not necessarily one that indicates your citizenship.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:26 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


They can buy anyone's work they want. His status is meaningless in regards to this.
This is not true at all. If you're not legal to work in your current country, then it's illegal to give you work. Anyone paying an undocumented worker is in effect flaunting immigration laws, and in a sense it's surprising he's gotten this far.

You can't get a job while on a tourist visa. There are relatively strict guidelines about what you're allowed to do as a "business visitor" if you're from a NAFTA country; you can set up a conference, or have meetings and sales calls but if you get paid by a US company you're not allowed to come in and perform work while in the US.

Get caught breaking any of the above, and you're likely to be barred altogether from re-entering.
posted by pmv at 12:27 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


If you're not legal to work in your current country, then it's illegal to give you work. Anyone paying an undocumented worker is in effect flaunting immigration laws, and in a sense it's surprising he's gotten this far.

They may not be "flaunting immigration laws" if he was an independent contractor.

From the LA Times:
Although federal law prohibits employers from hiring someone residing in the country illegally, there is no law prohibiting such a person from starting a business or becoming an independent contractor.
posted by bradf at 12:43 PM on July 15


absorbing thousands of destitute kids seems untenable

How much is the cost in cruise missiles?
posted by srboisvert at 12:48 PM on July 15 [14 favorites]


How much is the cost in cruise missiles?

It depends. In terms of pure monetary equivalence? Current exchange rate is raising 5.8 kids to the cruise missile.
posted by Talez at 1:19 PM on July 15


I am confused about how you are supposed to prove citizenship at an airport while getting on a domestic flight. If they ask for your license, can't you just say you forgot it and walk away?

That would be a federal crime that even the whitest of white can go to prison for.
posted by Talez at 1:25 PM on July 15


I actually did forget my license last time I flew domestically in the US, and they let me on anyway. The TSA agent asked me if I had anything in my possession with my name on it, and I showed them my checkbook and and the pill bottle with my prescription migraine medication in it. They did an "enhanced pat-down" and let me through, and then when I flew back from LaGuardia, they didn't even bother with the "enhanced pat-down." It turns out that the TSA people have complete discretion about whether to let you through without ID, and they typically will let people through.

Anyway, Vargas gets asked about this all the time, and he says that he uses his Philippine passport as ID to get on planes.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:34 PM on July 15


I dunno man, it took my parents years and years and lots and lots of money and legal work to immigrate to America. My parents still have friends who have been waiting years to immigrate to the United States. I don't like this whole language of "documented" vs "undocumented," as though the only difference is trivial paperwork.

It's not his fault that his parents broke the law, but I don't think that if your parents robbed a bank to give you the money, that you ought to be able to keep it.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 1:40 PM on July 15 [5 favorites]


A number of interesting things going on here. If he is let go, the GOP will be all over the Administration.

So? This is different than any other day how?
posted by eriko at 1:41 PM on July 15 [12 favorites]


Fun fact I learned last summer: These interior checkpoints in Texas may also have police dogs that will sniff your car for drugs and hidden humans without your consent. Yay 'Merica!
posted by gnutron at 1:43 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


I don't like this whole language of "documented" vs "undocumented," as though the only difference is trivial paperwork.

The difference is purely paperwork though - Americans can't distinguish which upstanding members of their own society are which, other than by recourse to look at their paperwork, precisely because there is no other difference. Some American kids grow up in America and can't even tell whether they themselves have the correct paperwork, until there is a problem at the DMV and they discover that they're not "who" they thought they were. It's a distinction that isn't about who you are or where you grew up or what language you speak or how much tax you pay, but purely one of bureaucracy and process.

(He is correct to point out that being undocumented is not a crime. At least not legally and factually. For many people it's metaphorically a crime.)
posted by anonymisc at 2:08 PM on July 15 [16 favorites]


I guess that's true. You can't tell where money came from either. So if my parents robbed the bank and gave me the money, it was just an "undocumented" transaction. Money is money then. Or you know, counterfeit money is just not documented with the treasury.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 2:15 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Who exactly was robbed of their citizenship? Whoever it was, they should get citizenship returned to them, yes.
posted by anonymisc at 2:17 PM on July 15 [5 favorites]


Just as counterfeit money dilutes the value of real money, counterfeit citizenship, through fraudulent documents, dilutes the value to real citizenship.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 2:20 PM on July 15 [3 favorites]


every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes: So if my parents robbed the bank and gave me the money, it was just an "undocumented" transaction.

A more accurate metaphor would be that American businesses are the ones orchestrating and facilitating the so-called robbery, by illegally hiring these workers, with the tacit support of all American consumers who demand the lowest possible price for goods and services, and look the other way when businesses hire undocumented labor. This is a demand-side problem -- take away the demand for cheap labor, and nobody coming here will have a job, and they'll stop coming. Of course that means higher prices for our produce and construction labor, and the market won't allow that to happen.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:22 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


Yes, that is a better metaphor. It's a good analysis of the pull factor for illegal immigration. Of course, there's also the push factor too, and people are obviously being pushed out of their countries for violence and turmoil, and I think the humanitarian refugee argument makes sense, and is one that I support. I think the "please, you have more than you need, would you please live up to your rhetoric and your values and help us" argument is the best one... but the "oh, it's just a matter of paper work, what does it really matter" argument... isn't.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 2:31 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Just as counterfeit money dilutes the value of real money, counterfeit citizenship, through fraudulent documents, dilutes the value to real citizenship.

wut.

I've read this like 3 times, and i still don't get it. What is there to dilute, the fact that you didn't go through "the struggle" of immigration or whatever?

This situation is a lot more like digital copyright infringement than counter fitting or anything. There is no "inflation" of citizenship going on here.

We're not full, no one needs to go home.
posted by emptythought at 2:32 PM on July 15 [7 favorites]


Where do you draw the line? My grandmother obtained her citizenship fraudulently. She lied on her visa application, because she was fleeing the Nazis and was really desperate and would have died if she'd told the truth. So would you have taken her citizenship away if you'd found out about it after the fact? How about my dad's, who was only born here because of her crime? Mine? If my grandmother had played by the rules the way your parents did, I wouldn't be a US citizen either, so maybe I should have my citizenship taken away.

And if not, then why draw the line at people like Vargas, who did not decide to immigrate here illegally and who have grown up here and contributed in all sorts of ways to our society? (And I mean, Vargas is on the extreme end of things, what with the Pulitzer prize and all, but most undocumented immigrants pay taxes and contribute in other ways.) Especially since there is no way to round all those people up and deport them, and so by not giving them legal right to stay here, you just create a separate class of people who face all sorts of barriers to full participation in our society. I get that you don't think it's fair that your parents jumped through hoops and other people don't, but life's not fair. It's not fair that most Americans never had to jump through any hoops and got to be citizens just by being born here. Given that there is no way to make things fair, why not go with the unfairness that prevents having a really vulnerable underclass of undocumented immigrants whose existence violates the basic norms of an equal, democratic society?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:32 PM on July 15 [16 favorites]


every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes: but the "oh, it's just a matter of paper work, what does it really matter" argument... isn't.

OK, but we can't deport 11 million people, most of whom themselves want immigration reform so they don't have to live in constant fear of deportation. There is zero political will for solving the problem by significantly expanding legal immigration and creating a path to citizenship. In this environment, you really think the problem is that we're not using the right language in talking about them? Factually, they are undocumented. Factually, they are also illegal immigrants. The left of the political spectrum favors the former term, the right favors the latter term. What does settling on one or the other have to do with improving the situation itself?
posted by tonycpsu at 2:37 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Well obviously what you stated is the humanitarian argument right, as I mentioned? The whole asylum-refugee thing?

Right, are you arguing that I should accept that life isn't fair, so that I should accept that, and then going on to kind of say that isn't fair for people to be born into poverty, but instead of telling them to accept that, that they should do whatever they want?
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 2:38 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


How about my dad's, who was only born here because of her crime? Mine?

Someone born in the United States is a citizen period. There is no serious debate about that.
posted by Justinian at 2:40 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Whoa, let's be clear here, I never in this post said we should deport them. The kids we just deported should be been given asylum. They weren't doing a quibbling about semantics. I think you inferred a bit too much about me.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 2:41 PM on July 15


Whoa, let's be clear here, I never in this post said we should deport them.
Wait, what? Then what are you arguing for?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:45 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]


Chris Hayes just re-tweeted:
Statement from @joseiswriting: "I’ve been released by Border Patrol."
posted by ndfine at 3:01 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Right, are you arguing that I should accept that life isn't fair, so that I should accept that, and then going on to kind of say that isn't fair for people to be born into poverty, but instead of telling them to accept that, that they should do whatever they want?

Life may not be fair but that doesn't mean we can't make sure it's unfair in the least dickish ways possible. My wife and I paid five figures for the lawyers, USCIS fees and bullshit to get my green card. I got to walk into the country because I'm white, well off, and married to a US spouse. I don't feel any animosity to those trying to escape poverty, scraping by with barely anything and living outside the system. They have earned their path to citizenship by dedication while going through a veritable baptism of fire. I earned mine by having access to resources. It all comes out in the wash.
posted by Talez at 3:01 PM on July 15 [11 favorites]


Someone born in the United States is a citizen period. There is no serious debate about that.

It mostly depends on your definition of "serious," I guess.
In 1993, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced legislation that would limit birthright citizenship to the children of U.S. citizens and legally resident aliens, and similar bills have been introduced by other legislators in every Congress since.
Pretty despicable.
posted by Corinth at 3:04 PM on July 15 [3 favorites]


I don't think children should be punished for the sins of their parents. I think illegal immigrants should be granted amnesty, for humanitarian purposes, in line with the values of our country. I also simultaneously think the government has the right to deport them. What this means is that I support something with reservation, instead of everything at 100%.

To clarify my initial post, I already said tonyscpu's metaphor is better than mine. In subsequent posts, I clarified by stating that I supported asylum for refugees, and support giving illegal immigrants citizenship, for humanitarian purposes, but not for "because it's just paperwork" purposes.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 3:07 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


The BuzzFeed link has been updated to reflect his release.

Now, how about the non-famous detainees?
posted by univac at 3:19 PM on July 15 [3 favorites]


Pretty despicable.

It is. There is also 0 chance of it happening.
posted by Justinian at 3:19 PM on July 15


The left of the political spectrum favors the former term, the right favors the latter term.

What about people who are neither on the left nor on the right then?

(I default to "unauthorized.")

What does settling on one or the other have to do with improving the situation itself?

Because people vote differently on a question depending on its phrasing. I'll vote on helping people regardless of how it's phrased, but there are people who will vote differently depending on the term. That's what it has to do with improving the situation itself.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 3:21 PM on July 15


The difference is purely paperwork though

The term "undocumented" implies that you have the status but not the documents to prove it, as though someone had broken in and stolen them.

It's a term invented for the purpose of obfuscation.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:23 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


Exactly, because most "undocumented" immigrants probably do have documents, they are just fraudulent ones.

Also:

This situation is a lot more like digital copyright infringement than counter fitting or anything. There is no "inflation" of citizenship going on here.

I dunno man, it seems "digital copyright infringement" isn't the best comparison if your point is that it's an example of a victimless crime.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 3:31 PM on July 15


Someone born in the United States is a citizen period. There is no serious debate about that.

Tell that to the Tea Party.
posted by nathan_teske at 3:33 PM on July 15


If paying for the cost of raising and educating kids weren't a good investment, the economy would have imploded a long time ago.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:01 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Vargas is reported to have volunteered that he was in the country illegally to the Border Patrol agents. So, yeah, this is a case of deliberate civil disobedience.
posted by Justinian at 4:16 PM on July 15


We're not full, no one needs to go home.

According to Gallup, 150 million adults world wide (and presumably their children) want to move here. Would that constitute full? If not, what would? Remember, this is no longer a country where unskilled labor is at a premium. Nor a lot of skilled labor either, for that matter.

Just something to think about.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:04 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


counterfeit citizenship, through fraudulent documents, dilutes the value to real citizenship.

That's a really weird formulation. Is there a finite amount of "citizenship value" that also gets diluted whenever the population increases?

But, once again, it's a reminder that people who have earned their citizenship by, um, being born tend to have very little understanding of their countries' immigration systems, and those people have the majority of votes, which is why the US is going to have a shit sandwich of an immigration system for the foreseeable future.
posted by holgate at 5:05 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


According to Gallup, 150 million adults world wide (and presumably their children) want to move here.

I'm sure that Gallup could take a survey showing that 150 million adults world wide want to get married to Beyoncé, but that doesn't mean she should travel with a large personal army that carries out spot checks within a mile radius.

Just something to think about.
posted by holgate at 5:08 PM on July 15 [7 favorites]


So what is a border, then?

Does any nation, anywhere, ever, have any right at all to control who comes inside their country?

Because if not and you can convince either France or Finland or New Zealand to sign on to this "no borders" / "no border immigration control" thing then I am fucking the fuck right out of here.
posted by marble at 5:28 PM on July 15


Absolutely no European country offers citizenship rights based on location of birth.

We can call it despicable. But this is a case where the US has the most liberal immigration laws of the first world.
posted by politikitty at 6:12 PM on July 15


Vargas has been released and given a notice to appear before an immigation judge.
posted by humanfont at 6:21 PM on July 15


Absolutely no European country offers citizenship rights based on location of birth.

We can call it despicable. But this is a case where the US has the most liberal immigration laws of the first world.


What about Canada? It's not in Europe, but it's certainly "first world." They grant citizenship based on jus soli, and per capita they accept nearly triple the number of immigrants as the US.
posted by bradf at 6:36 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Absolutely no European country offers citizenship rights based on location of birth.

except for France, Germany, Ireland, UK, though you are correct, and some residency restrictions do apply.

It would also appear that not just the US, but most of the Americas have "the most liberal immigration laws".
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 7:22 PM on July 15


Canada also has one of the saner immigration regimes in the developed world -- tough, but largely transparent and coherent -- which is a reflection of how policy is shaped by electorate that collectively has closer personal experience of immigration, and where the idea of "comprehensive immigration reform" doesn't set ten million knees jerking. On the other hand, Canada has certain luxuries with its land border.

what is a border, then?

A border is lots of things at once. It is a political fault line that is exploited both ways, including college kids doing god-knows-what in Tijuana, or older people getting dental work or stocking up on pills from farmacias, or multinationals building factories on the cheaper side.

(A border of sorts is also where you go to buy lottery tickets or fireworks or liquor, or avoid paying sales tax, and you probably don't feel so bad about that just because the state troopers aren't setting up roadblocks to enforce it.)

A border is a line drawn over a cultural space that is often transitional, like the land borders of the US, or abruptly demarcated, like the Iron Curtain. Rigorously defended borders and an equally rigorous sense of documented citizenship and identity is a relatively modern phenomenon regardless of longer-standing jus soli or jus sanguinis principles -- this is why so many older African-Americans get the sharp end of Voter ID laws. It is a consequence of modern mobility, and in part, of modern refugee crises. It's a mistake to back-date one's own sense of documented citizenship to whatever great-grandparent who stepped off a boat a century or more in the past.

US immigration law is still stuck in the 1950s, with patches and kludges and crappy fixes slapped on top every so often. What the country needs is a serious conversation about the kind of immigration law and enforcement it should have, from top to bottom, that also poses hard questions about an economy driven at the shitty end by cheap labour and cheap goods that keep US citizens in slightly less shitty circumstances feeling a bit better about themselves. That kind of conversation might take two or three years to complete. It can't happen because the House of Representatives gets re-elected every two years and so every other year (even at the best of times) legislating is replaced by sloganeering. The result is a giant pile of shit.
posted by holgate at 7:49 PM on July 15 [6 favorites]




I have ... complicated feelings about Vargas. Like him, I am a Filipino who came to the US when I was young, and also like him, my family had a pretty sketchy plan about how we were going to stay. Except, unlike him, when that plan fell through, we left and tried something else, and then came back when another opportunity presented itself. The thing that gets left out a lot in Vargas' story is that he knew, from the age of 16 forward, that he was illegal. His mom was and is still back in Manila, and he had only been away from his home country for four years.

His choice was not the stark one that a lot of folks in this thread have been framing, of going back to a country that he didn't know, vs. a country that didn't want him. It's more like the choice that an American student may have if they choose to attend university in Oxford and choose to overstay in the UK or go back to the US. So, yes, he was innocent of the cockamie scheme that his mom and grand-dad hatched to get him to the States, but once he had his 'revelation' at the DMV at 16, he owned the choice to be an illegal.

This is not to say that I advocate his deportation. We love you, America, but your immigration system is a shitshow, and it absolutely needs to be fixed, if anything just for the humane-ness. Make it stricter, make it looser -- we kind of don't care. But, please, for the love of God, just make it more consistent and straightforward? Then those of us have the ambition and wherewithal to move somewhere can make better decision about whether it's you or Canada or New Zealand or China? Because the way it is now, the two-faced stance that you've taken, and the hypocrisy with which you hold yourself as a beacon to the world, but won't let anyone in your house, has made you into the abusive parent that we cannot leave. You ignore us, call us names and treat us like shit, and we come back for more because a nugget of kindness from you is worth all of the abuse. Many of us cannot quit you.

That's changing, from what I know and see on parts of the demand side. You aren't the only game in town. The savviest of us who leave our homeland go to Australia, Canada and Saudi. yes, goddamn Saudi. They treat us like shit there too, but at least they're straight up and honest about it, and they tip well when they're done with us. But there are a bunch of us, old members of my extended family, among them, who will do anything to live here -- who will gladly take a shadow life without health insurance or unemployment benefits or a driver's license, for the chance to be part of this country. We have to be conscious that we're making that choice, and we have to own it. Because you, frankly, don't deserve us, and the sooner we can figure out how to quit you and leave you alone to your twin oceans of isolation and your warm blanket of exceptionalism, then I think the happier we will all be.

Sorry, I wish I could have more sympathy for Mr. Vargas, but I'm more just angry that his baggage and his quixotic Pinocchio like quest to be a Real American is a terrible icon for a national dialogue that is more than just that. The question of what to do with the unaccompanied minors is a tough one, but those children's stories are not his and the solutions to his problems will not help them directly.
posted by bl1nk at 9:14 PM on July 15 [6 favorites]


Canada is the place where I get hassled all the time when I show up with my non-white children especially the Hispanic named ones so it is hard to say that it is so much more "enlightened". However, it is not tilted to taking only white folks like our system presently is giving countries with whites a greater number of allowed immigrations.

As to our award winning author, he does not have a driver's license because he is an illegal immigrant, he is not able to obtain one legally. Thus, even after having been here all these years and being able, he has not for some reason applied for legal status even though there were two time periods when "amnesty" was available. Stops inside the country to check citizenship have been in place for years and years in my experience since at least 1976.

Vargas was given a bond, released on those conditions, and a hearing was set for him to deal with his status. How he avoided one all these years is interesting but now he is in the system.
posted by OhSusannah at 9:15 PM on July 15


Has the SCOTUS ruled on the legality of those extended boarder zones?

I'm sure the whole thing is shadier than hell.

The whole issue is so scummy. Not just a demand for papers but the issue of illegal dog searches.

If it's legal to stop your car and demand proof of citizenship, I'm sure the next act will be banging on your door at midnight and doing same.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:15 PM on July 15


I agree with others that this strikes me as an intentional act of civil disobedience-- at the very least, living so openly as an undocumented person has opened Vargas up to the prospect of being detained or deported and is an inherent civil disobedience action.

I admire his courage. I think the high-profile nature of this incident will make some difference, whatever it may be. But that victory might mean we look back in 2030 and unequivocally say "how barbaric!"...while he's still spent 15 years exiled from his country.
posted by threeants at 11:55 PM on July 15


Also I'm sort of ragelolling at "whatever, he'll be fine if he's deported!" Like Vargas, I'm an American with a college degree and a decent amount of (well, way fewer) professional skills. While I probably wouldn't !!!literally die!!! if I were sent to Togo or China or Brazil or Norway and forever barred from the United States, that would fuck my life pretty well up, y'all.
posted by threeants at 11:58 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


We're definitely between a rock and a hard place right now; absorbing thousands of destitute kids seems untenable

If by "seems" you mean "facially appears within popular political constructs", yes. But no, we do have the resources, as a nation, to absorb just about as many children in mortal danger as can get here. We're just not interested. It's not a priority. Too bad, so sad, next time get born somewhere less dangerous, apparently.
posted by threeants at 12:04 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


If it's legal to stop your car and demand proof of citizenship

U.S. citizens are not required to carry documentary proof of citizenship on their person.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:35 AM on July 16


While I probably wouldn't !!!literally die!!! if I were sent to Togo or China or Brazil or Norway and forever barred from the United States, that would fuck my life pretty well up, y'all.
You underestimate your ability to adapt. Exile is a totally scary prospect in the abstract, but once it happens, and it is your life and you accept it; you may come to realize that the rest of the world isn't as scary as you may imagine. I had to face it last year when my 20+ year run at trying to get a Green Card looked like it was about to disintegrate due to an employer's incompetence. It was totally depressing to think about losing connections to friends that I had made here, and the roots of where I had laid more than half my life. But fuck me if I was going to be an illegal here.

I totally did that 7 stages of grief thing last year, and when I finally got to acceptance and started using up my vacation to visit places that had sane immigration policies, I rather came around to the idea that it was going to be ok. Still, a connection offered me a new job that had the opportunity to reset my Green Card process and get me a 3+ year extension on my status. So, I'm giving it one more shot, but fuuuuck if I want one more ride on this carousel. If this doesn't work out, then I am done.

I realize that my situation is privileged, as is Vargas, as would, I suspect, many members of MeFi, if we were Norwegians or Chinese or Brazilians suddenly forced to return to our countries of origin. We have options that other refugees and poor migrants do not. But we do have options and it is dishonest to ourselves and to the others that we argue with, to pretend otherwise.

And Norway is awesome. You would be so lucky if you got exiled there.
posted by bl1nk at 5:40 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Wait Norwegian exile is an option? Sign me up.
posted by humanfont at 7:39 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


One of the problems I have with the whole immigration "conversation" is that every solution proposed seems to give a huge preference to would-be immigrants simply based on the fact that they live in a border country to the US. If the justification for changing our immigration policies is one of fairness, how is that fair?

Why is opening the proverbial bureaucratic gates and letting anyone who can walk across the southern border stay fair, when there are just as many — probably far more — people in other countries, who are just as desperately interested in US citizenship, who are probably just as much in peril, who probably have just as few economic opportunities at home, and would add (or take away, depending on your view of labor-market wage suppression) just as much to the US economy. But they happen to have the bad luck of being separated by an ocean, rather than a seasonally-dry river, from the US, making it a lot harder to become an undocumented immigrant in the first place to someone living in the Americas.

That sort of 'accident of birth' is exactly the unfairness that most immigration-reform proposals base their justifications on. The twist of circumstance that places someone in Mexico or Honduras instead of the US is the same circumstance that might place someone in India instead of Mexico. So why are we considering immigration reforms that privilege one group of would-be immigrants so far ahead of others? Granting citizenship based on one's ability to sneak into the country and remain here seems to do exactly that. It's the very opposite of "reform" — it's really a hardening of the status quo, which I think every reasonable person agrees at this point is replete with unfairness.

I'd like to see immigration reform, but I know too many people who've waited too long and sacrificed too much in order to do things by the rules, to think that anything that's being proposed on the national stage right now is any step forward for fairness.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:32 AM on July 16


Kadin, I think it's a matter of practicality. It would be very difficult, logistically speaking, for hundreds or thousands of (say) Bangladeshis to just show up here. Ships are not an option, because of the Navy and Coast Guard. Airplanes are not an option for obvious reasons.

In comparison, it's easy for people to walk across the border. Short of building huge electrified fences the entire length of the border, and extending those fences too far below ground to dig tunnels, we're not going to be able to keep people out. So - what do we do with the people who are inevitably going to cross anyway?

It's not about fairness, it's about reality. If it was logistically improbable to cross the borders then it would be just as difficult for Central Americans to obtain legal status as it is for other immigrants. Australia is a goddamn island but they still have issues with people making very risky boat journeys.

Either we deport everyone as soon as we locate them - which is very expensive and often leads to another return attempt - or we enact reforms to deal with their inevitable presence.
posted by desjardins at 9:30 AM on July 16


Also, Kadin - I'm not sure if you're implying that it's racism, but I've never heard anyone in the immigration debate, on either side, say that Central Americans are inherently better people than Africans, South Asians, etc. and that's why we should or should not have different standards for them. (Europeans are another matter, there's no shortage of anti-brown-immigration folks who would privilege white immigrants over others.)
posted by desjardins at 9:34 AM on July 16


One of the problems I have with the whole immigration "conversation" is that every solution proposed seems to give a huge preference to would-be immigrants simply based on the fact that they live in a border country to the US.

There's some mitigation, perhaps, that if you live in a Latin American nation, there's a fairly high chance that the US has actively fucked with your country's politics and economy in recent decades.

But it's a strawman argument. There's no real constituency beyond die-hard libertarians for Open Borders as it's commonly imagined. There is, however, an argument that acknowledges regional continuities and logistical realities.

Immigration policy is already broadly more generous to certain nationalities and regions, either because of ancestral ties within modern self-identified communities (Irish) or because of high-level political reciprocity (Australia), with patches and kludges applied to the law at the behest of politicians catering to those citizen constituencies.
posted by holgate at 10:14 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


You underestimate your ability to adapt. Exile is a totally scary prospect in the abstract, but once it happens, and it is your life and you accept it; you may come to realize that the rest of the world isn't as scary as you may imagine.

Okay, uh, I've lived and worked in a number of foreign countries running the full gamut of developedness, and I'm pretty well aware of my ability to adapt. I really think you're projecting your own apparent sangfroid before the significance of what being permanently, legally barred from one's home country would represent for most humans.
posted by threeants at 3:43 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


You know, given the whole OMG SOCIAL SECURITY IT DOOOOOOOOMED rhetoric I'd assume folks would be eager for an influx of potential citizens who would pay into SocSec in 10 years or so. I mean it's kinda fucked the debate is always THEY'LL DRAIN THE SYSTEM instead of, hey, here are a bunch of nasciant tax payers!

But, I guess the brown skin Spanish speaking is a tough hurdle for some {\}
posted by edgeways at 5:03 PM on July 16


RogerB: "The "Border" Patrol (whose name is rapidly turning into Newspeak) says it's allowed to make everyone produce their papers then, too. It's shocking to me how few people in the US know about this, considering how reminiscent of apartheid-era South Africa it is"

Or communist Russia. The whole "Papers Please" is right out of every cold war spy novel ever. If 50 years ago you'd told Americans that police would be demanding proof of citizenship at random locations within the US people would have been dropping dead of apoplexy all over the place.

one more dead town's last parade: "U.S. citizens are not required to carry documentary proof of citizenship on their person."

So what happens to a citizen who isn't sufficiently American looking at one of these crossings? They just let you continue on your way on your word?
posted by Mitheral at 12:32 AM on July 17


So what happens to a citizen who isn't sufficiently American looking at one of these crossings? They just let you continue on your way on your word?

I don't live in the border region so I thankfully deal with this only intermittently, and I don't know what other people do, but what you mention is actually a real issue that for us has been incredibly stressful and awful. I'm white, but my partner gets profiled, so those checkpoints are seriously no fun when we are traveling together.

So we make sure I'm driving and am the one talking, and I do a lot of smiling and act really friendly and super American ("Hey guys, how's it going? Hot day today, isn't it?"). We both have passports out and open on the dash and have the vehicle ready for inspection, all windows down, nothing unusual out in the open. We also know who I will call and in what order if something goes wrong and there is a detention, including lawyer, politicians, and activists with media connections.

In other words, pretty much the opposite of those people who film themselves going through the checkpoints and asserting their constitutional rights. It honestly makes me feel dirty and awful typing this out and admitting to how completely I am willing to give up every right I have as a citizen out of fear that a racist asshole will randomly decide to illegally fuck up our day and create a situation that will take ages and thousands of dollars to resolve. It's disgusting, straight up.

But we know a couple of people, and have heard of many more, who were citizens or legal residents (though obviously not white) who got profiled and detained, and it took them ridiculous amounts of trouble to resolve, so it's not something we take lightly at all. In contrast, when I'm driving alone and go through one of those checkpoints it's totally different. I am relaxed and although I'm polite I feel comfortable giving them plenty of pushback, because, you know, racist privilege.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:13 AM on July 17 [6 favorites]


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