(Washington Times) – Jose Antonio Vargas, an illegal immigrant and former reporter, scolded a congressional panel on Wednesday, saying that he should not be called illegal, and saying it is an insult to his family who brought him here.
“When you inaccurately call me illegal, you not only dehumanize me, you’re offending them,” he said. “No human being is illegal.”
Mr. Vargas testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee alongside Chris Crane — a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and president of the ICE agents’ union — who is unable to arrest him under the administration’s new non-deportation policies.
Mr. Vargas, who “came out” as an illegal immigrant several years ago, delivered an emotional plea for the country to legalize him.
“What do you want to do with us?” he asked the committee.
Last week, a top House Democrat also warned colleagues against using the term “illegal immigrants.”
“Our citizens are not — the people in this country are not illegal. They are are out of status. They are new Americans that are immigrants,” Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, told colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee.
Many immigrant-rights advocates object to the terms “illegal” and “alien,” saying that people cannot be deemed illegal, and that the word “alien” makes them sound inhuman. They argue the better terms are “undocumented migrants.”
Many newspapers, including The Washington Times, use the phrase “illegal immigrant,” deeming it the most accurate description.
Mr. Vargas called himself an “undocumented immigrant.”
He is one of a number of illegal immigrants who have come out of the shadows to argue their case for legalization.
He came to the U.S. to live with his grandfather, who was a naturalized citizen, but Mr. Vargas was never legal himself — a fact he found out when he went to get a driver’s license at age 16.
He said he became a reporter to try to validate his presence in the U.S.
At least five other formerly illegal immigrants were scheduled to be guests at Tuesday’s State of the Union address, though each of those has been granted specific tentative legal status through one of the Homeland Security Department’s programs.