Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas rose to prominence after he outed himself as an undocumented alien in a New York Times essay in 2011.
Since that time Vargas has become the most well known illegal immigrant in the country and an outspoken advocate for immigration reform, relying heavily on claims that undocumented aliens will be model citizens and could add substantially to the federal tax base. He repeatedly asserts that many undocumented aliens, like him, already pay into a system they cannot use.
But Vargas himself hasn’t always lived up to that claim.
According to court documents obtained by Red Alert Politics, Vargas was hit with a $41,945.44 tax lien in a court notice on Jan. 7, 2015 for failing to pay taxes in 2010. According to the notice, the date of the assessment was Sept. 23, 2013.
Vargas, the current host of MTV’s White People, has bragged time and time again that he has been paying federal taxes since he was 18, 19, or 22, depending on the recounting of the story.
From The New York Times in 2011:
I was determined to pursue my ambitions. I was 22, I told them, responsible for my own actions. But this was different from Lolo’s driving a confused teenager to Kinko’s. I knew what I was doing now, and I knew it wasn’t right. But what was I supposed to do?
I was paying state and federal taxes, but I was using an invalid Social Security card and writing false information on my employment forms.
From Time in 2012:
We may be nonpeople to the TSA but not to the IRS. Undocumented workers pay taxes. I’ve paid income taxes, state and federal, since I started working at 18. The IRS doesn’t care if I’m here legally; it cares about its money. Some undocumented people, of course, circumvent the system, just like some citizens. But according to the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, households headed by undocumented workers collectively paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes in 2010 — $1.2 billion in income taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes (because undocumented immigrants do own property) and $8.4 billion in consumption taxes. We also pay into Social Security. Even as many of us contribute, we cannot avail ourselves of a great deal of the services those tax dollars pay for.
From CNN in 2014:
Against the advice of lawyers, I wrote, in detail, what I had to do to live and survive in America: hide in plain sight as I worked as a journalist for more than a decade; lie on government forms to get jobs while paying taxes and contributing to Social Security (undocumented workers provide billions in both); grow estranged from my mother in the Philippines who put me on a plane to the United States in 1993. In outing myself, I risked everything and prepared myself for anything.
From Vanity Fair in 2014:
In writing about my undocumented status in an essay for The New York Times Magazine, and directing the film Documented, my chief goal was to expose and document, sometimes against the advice of my own lawyers, the cracks in our broken immigration system—to show Americans what undocumented people have to do to work, live, and survive. In one scene , I look straight to the camera and admit that I checked the “U.S. citizen” box on an employment form to get a job. It was either lie, or not get the job. I was 19 years old and wanted to work, pay taxes, and contribute to my adopted country.
The nearly $42,000 tax lien was issued because of Vargas’s failure to pay his income tax in 2010 – “the last year I worked for employers before coming out as undocumented,” Vargas noted.
“After outing myself in that article, I stopped using the doctored card my grandfather gave me–including filing my taxes with it,” he told Red Alert via email.
“As I noted in the Times essay—and as I’ve repeated in many interviews—I paid state and federal taxes using that card in the prior years, which I started using when I began working as a teenager.”
Vargas provided proof to Red Alert Politics that the overdue tax bill had been paid on Feb. 11, 2015.
“To my knowledge, the lien payment I made this year fulfills my tax liability.”