Jose Antonio Vargas is a journalist and immigration activist who has taken on the cause of the “Dreamers”, children brought to America, in violation of our immigration law, at a young age, who were able to avoid enforcement long enough to become integrated into American society and have a sense that America is their country. Mr. Vargas, himself, came to the United States at age 12 and remained in the United States without legal status.
I am sympathetic to the dreamers; I would like to see provisions in the immigration law to provide legal status to these children caught in a netherworld of their parent’s illegal actions and a federal government that is unwilling to enforce our immigration laws.
But, when you take a deep look at Mr. Vargas’ movement and philosophy we find that he is not talking about the one time fix for the immigration system that has been allowed to devolve out of control. Mr. Vargas is extolling a notion that for any parent who can manage to get his/her child inside the United States and if that child can avoid enforcement for an unspecified length of time, this child is entitled to legal status.
While Mr. Vargas’ “Define American” website is long on emotional appeals it is short on a real discussion of immigration policies, particularly how we enforce our immigration laws, Mr. Vargas’ concept of a “21st Century Underground Railroad” is a call to American citizen’s to facilitate the presence of young illegal immigrants in the United States until they can claim citizenship by moral fiat.
Indeed, mine is a story about the heart and compassion of the 21st Century Underground Railroad: American citizens helping new American immigrants as we strive for full citizen rights. My teachers, school administrators, mentors, and friends were all part of my “Railroad.” They are the chief reason I’m able to tell you my story.
Mr. Vargas seems willing to take advantage of our sense of fair play and compassion for young people to manipulate our immigration policy, giving power and control of our immigration policy to those willing to break our immigration laws.
I also take issue with his assertion that there is a parallel moral equivalency between an underground railroad for slaves and illegal immigrants. Not being enslaved is a fundamental human right, there is no basic right of immigration.
As Mr. Vargas seeks to define who is an American, I hear him saying that anyone can simply declare oneself an American. Mr. Vargas seems to be putting forward a moral imperative that sweeps all other consideration aside, that anyone who wants to be an American is entitled to be American. Mr. Vargas and many others are making a moral argument for unlimited immigration.