A reporter’s secret

Jose Antonio Vargas made a surprising confession in this week’s New York Times magazine. The former Washington Post and Huffington Post reporter acknowledged that he is an undocumented immigrant.

Vargas said he was inspired by other undocumented immigrants who risked deportation by the Obama administration, so they could lobby for the DREAM Act, which provides a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

There are believed to be 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. We’re not always who you think we are. Some pick your strawberries or care for your children. Some are in high school or college. And some, it turns out, write news articles you might read. I grew up here. This is my home. Yet even though I think of myself as an American and consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as one of its own.

Vargas has set up a Web site and blog, which he says will offer the country a chance to have a real conversation about immigration.

Vargas detailed the way he obtained phony IDs to get — and keep — jobs in newsrooms. He recently got a new driver’s license, but says he can’t live in fear of being found out anymore.

So I’ve decided to come forward, own up to what I’ve done, and tell my story to the best of my recollection. I’ve reached out to former bosses­ and employers and apologized for misleading them — a mix of humiliation and liberation coming with each disclosure. All the people mentioned in this article gave me permission to use their names. I’ve also talked to family and friends about my situation and am working with legal counsel to review my options. I don’t know what the consequences will be of telling my story.

I do know that I am grateful to my grandparents, my Lolo and Lola, for giving me the chance for a better life. I’m also grateful to my other family — the support network I found here in America — for encouraging me to pursue my dreams.

Mark Memmott, at NPR’s Two-Way blog, says Vargas’ confession will also likely provoke an ethics debate among journalists. Is it appropriate for journalists, who are supposed to search for truth, should live a lie?

Along with how this story plays in the immigration debate, watch for a discussion among journalists about whether Vargas’ actions over the years raise questions about his credibility as a reporter.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, journalists should “abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.”

In the meantime, the article also constitutes Vargas; challenge to the Obama administration to do something about him.

Should it?