Washington Cancels Illegal Immigrant Journalist's License

This undated handout photo provided by Define American shows Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

This undated handout photo provided by Define American shows Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.  (AP)

Washington state has canceled the driver's license of a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who publicly said he is an illegal immigrant.

Officials opened an investigation after Jose Antonio Vargas' essay about his background was published in the New York Times Magazine in June, Department of Licensing spokeswoman Christine Anthony said Thursday.

Vargas wrote in the essay that he obtained a driver's license in Washington earlier this year after his Oregon license expired.

"We conducted in an investigation and concluded that he wasn't residing at the address he provided us," Anthony said.

The Licensing Department sent Vargas a letter requesting proof of residency, and the letter was returned. The state canceled his license July 18.

In his essay, Vargas wrote about worrying that his Oregon license would expire when he turned 30.

"Early this year, just two weeks before my 30th birthday, I won a small reprieve: I obtained a driver's license in the state of Washington. The license is valid until 2016. This offered me five more years of acceptable identification -- but also five more years of fear, of lying to people I respect and institutions that trusted me, of running away from who I am," Vargas wrote.

Because Vargas didn't surrender his license, he will still have a card that he presumably can still use to board an airplane or obtain other services that require ID. But if authorities run a background check, for example if Vargas gets pulled over while driving, it will show that the license is not valid, Anthony said.

The Seat's a sad feeling. In some ways, my driver's license has been my life line."

He continued, "However, I believe it is a small price to pay relative to the big things we're going to do, together."

Washington and New Mexico are the two states that don't require driver's license applicants to furnish a Social Security number.

Washington's Department of Licensing said last week that fewer out-of-state people who didn't provide a Social Security number have sought to obtain a driver's license in the state. The recent data suggest stricter rules Washington implemented in the past year are deterring illegal immigrants from getting licenses.

The new rules no longer allow cellphone or cable bills as proof of residency, but the state still accepts identification from other countries among the documents required in lieu of a Social Security number.

The department's data show that in the first half of 2011, 5,346 people didn't provide a Social Security number when obtaining a license. In all of 2010, more than 23,000 did not.

Other data show that the department has canceled 372 licenses due to fraud in 2011. A total of 717 were canceled in 2010.