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Jose Antonio Vargas and the End of Driver’s Licenses
He’s broken more than just immigration law.

(Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

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Jim Geraghty

Vargas hasn’t said publicly how much he drives; he wrote in Politico, “I’ve been traveling non-stop for three years, visiting more than 40 states.” He also wrote in his Politico article that he’s traveling with a camera crew, so perhaps he wasn’t 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 driver’s licenses are pretty simple: If you don’t have a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit, you’re not allowed to drive. There is no exception in the statute for individuals who have appeared on the cover of Time magazine. There’s no exception for those who have risen to the status of “symbol of the immigration debate.”

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These laws are not an expression of xenophobia or white privilege or demonizing the Other. Once Vargas’s license from the state of Washington was revoked — and he commented about the revocation in news articles, so it’s not like he can claim he was unaware of the state’s action — he was not legally allowed to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. (We’ll 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 Vargas’s colleagues quoted him as saying shortly before his arrest, “Our America is better than this. We’re more humane. We’re more compassionate. And we’re fighting for a better America, a country we love but has yet to recognize us.”

Vargas’s “better America” looks a lot like an America where he can ignore the laws he doesn’t like. If he doesn’t think he needs a valid driver’s license to drive, why do the rest of us need them?

— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.



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