Illegal immigrant journalist speaks out

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 25, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Laura Ingraham, in for Bill O'Reilly.

And in the "Personal Story" segment tonight, a man with a personal stake in the Supreme Court ruling over illegal immigration. Jose Vargas has been in this country illegally for nearly two decades. He joins us now from New York.

Jose, it's great to see you. I read your piece in TIME magazine...


INGRAHAM: ... where you, quote, "came out" as an illegal immigrant, and this was after many years of working and living in the United States. You did well in school. Obviously, you went to work at "The Washington Post" and...

VARGAS: For five years, yes.

INGRAHAM: For 5 years. And you were asked at the Washington Post in a form whether you were an American citizen, a U.S. citizen, and what did you say on that form?

VARGAS: You know, I actually checked the citizen box. And I remember trying to justify to myself, you know, is this OK?

You know, my first phone call, actually, was my high-school principal, Pat Highland, who's kind of the good Samaritan in my life. Kind of part of my underground railroad. And I asked her, "Is it OK that I'm doing this? Am I taking somebody else's job?"

And my principal basically said to you, "Don't be crazy," like, "you earned this." That's how I was kind of able to kind of plow through.

INGRAHAM: And people should know that you came to this country from the Philippines via your grandfather.


INGRAHAM: Who, himself, according to the report, I guess he had a -- someone sold him a Social Security number?


INGRAHAM: That was a fraudulent number.

VARGAS: Exactly. So, when I got here when I was 12 I didn't know that -- I thought everything was fine. I found out that I was undocumented like a lot of other people like me. We find out when we apply for a job. Or I found out when I tried to get a driver's permit.

And you know, my grandfather was a naturalized American citizen. So I just thought everything was fine.


VARGAS: The moment I found out is when kind of my world fell apart. And again, if it wasn't for, like, teachers, you know, my teachers at high school -- and it's interesting to me, actually.


VARGAS: I mean, it was great to listen to you earlier, you know, tonight talk about empathy and the importance of that. And I completely believe that. And in this whole conversation about illegal immigration, you know, like the teachers, the faith leaders, our co-workers, our friends, our neighbors.


VARGAS: They're missing in the conversation.

INGRAHAM: Right. The moral -- the moral argument I get that's been made -- that's been made time and again is these kids, you didn't choose to come here. You were brought here. I get that.

VARGAS: Exactly.

INGRAHAM: The Supreme Court ruling upheld the "stop and check' provision of the Arizona statute, struck down three other provisions. Do you think that this was a victory for illegal immigrants across the United States? Or something else?

VARGAS: You know, I mean, I completely understand, you know, the fear and frustration, especially that Latinos have on this, you know, for racial profiling. But, for me, I mean, I remember reading, the ruling today by senator -- I mean by Justice Kennedy, who said that, quote, "As a general rule, it is not a crime for an illegal alien to remain in the United States."

How can I not be hopeful? From that line it seems to me that the ruling says I'm not illegal. If...

INGRAHAM: If I'm you -- if I'm you and I'm reading Justice Kennedy today and I heard President Obama 12 days ago, I'm not particularly worried about my status in the United States.

VARGAS: I'm not worried.

INGRAHAM: But Jose, let's play devil's advocate here, though, because there are a lot of people in, let's say, Nigeria, in Pakistan, other countries who have been laboring for years and years to come here. And they've been filing forms. They've been spending a lot of money. They don't have fraudulent Social Security numbers. They don't lie on their forms, like you did.

How do you think they feel today? Do you think they feel good> They're still back in Nigeria or Pakistan. Should everybody be allowed to come in or just the people who are here illegally and lie?

VARGAS: I'm so glad you asked that question, because what we really need is a process. I'm not looking to bump the person from Nigeria.

INGRAHAM: No, you have bumped. Well, no, but someone could argue you have bumped them.

VARGAS: But again, if we create a process so that the 12 million undocumented Americans could come forward and say, "Here. Here we are. Now give us a process." And again, if you want me to get in the back of the line, to not bump anybody off, I'd be more than happy to do that.

INGRAHAM: So you'd do that and go back to the Philippines and apply?

VARGAS: Well, I mean, again, I've been in this country since I was 12. I paid taxes here. So this is my home. Before I'm going to go back to the Philippines, I'm going to make sure that I can go back to my home in New York City.

INGRAHAM: Right, right. Section 37-A of the Philippines Immigration Law. Are you familiar with that?

VARGAS: No, I'm not. But I'm sure you're going to remind us.

INGRAHAM: I am going to tell you about it. Because I've studied it actually, today. I have it all highlighted. The law geek.

Actually, it's pretty specific on -- if you're in the country illegally in the Philippines, you will be processed for deportation. You will be arrested by the commissioner of immigration through a warrant. And it basically lays out if you've made false or misleading statements in the process of becoming an immigrant in the United States or being in the Philippines -- excuse me -- you are removable as an alien. So it seems like the country of your birth would not be so hospitable to your staying there. Does that surprise you?

VARGAS: Which is why -- I mean, which is why I'm glad to call America my home. This is where I grew up, and this is my home. I look forward to coming back to the Philippines where I haven't seen my home almost 19 years this August.

INGRAHAM: Well, we appreciate your joining us, Jose.

VARGAS: Thanks for having me.

INGRAHAM: All right. You take care.

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