Jose Antonio Vargas loses his driver’s license, increasing risk of his deportation

immigration seal
(image: New Mexico Independent)

When journalist Jose Antonio Vargas confessed to being undocumented in a piece for New York Times Magazine, he stated that he had obtained an Oregon driver’s license by using a fake Social Security card and proof of residency. However, his lawyer advised him not to include the fact that he had obtained a Washington state driver’s license after the Oregon one expired. That news broke soon after the story was published. Now, Vargas’ license has been cancelled by the Washington State Licensing Department, which cited Vargas’ lack of residence in the state as their reason for revoking his license.

The Department’s spokesperson said that although Vargas retains the license card, if he is pulled over while driving, authorities will be able to verify that he has an invalid license.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that in fiscal year 2010, a record 393,000 people were deported from the United States, a number made possible by the “huge increases in deportations of people after they were arrested for breaking traffic or immigration laws or driving drunk.” AP found that 13,028 people were deported for traffic violations unrelated to inebriation:

Marshall Fitz, immigration policy director at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, said some of the people being counted as criminals have committed traffic violations that would usually draw a traffic ticket. But when the driver can’t produce a valid license, the officer pursues questions about immigration status.

Illegal immigrants caught in traffic stops often are pressured into signing an agreement to leave the United States and to pay a fine or somehow acknowledge responsibility for the traffic offense and thereby end up in the statistics as criminals even though they never went to court, Fitz said.

ICE removal numbers (PDF) released to the public suggest that last year’s high rate of deportation will continue in 2011. And although ICE has suggested that they will not be deliberately pursuing Vargas’ deportation, he now runs an increased risk of being detained if he should have an encounter with law enforcement.