Immigration Activist Who Touts Tax-Paying Illegals Had $42K IRS Lien

REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian/Files

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The nation’s most prominent and outspoken undocumented immigrants recently paid more than $48,000 to the IRS to settle an unpaid 2010 tax bill, despite his past claims that he’s long paid his taxes despite his immigration status.

Jose Antonio Vargas, 34, has touted his record of paying taxes since his teens to make the point that while undocumented immigrants are not allowed to work legally in the U.S., they pay federal income taxes and into Social Security.

But Red Alert Politics obtained documents indicating that Vargas, who was born in the Philippines and was sent to the U.S. when he was 12, has not always put his money where his mouth is.

A tax lien assessment issued on Sept. 23, 2013 shows that Vargas, who had worked as a freelance journalist and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008, had failed to pay $41,945.44 in taxes for the year 2010.

Vargas, who previously reported for The Washington Post, provided Red Alert Politics with a copy of a check he cut the IRS earlier this year for $48,039.98 to settle the bill.

Vargas came out as an illegal immigrant in a high-profile 2011 essay for The New York Times Magazine. In the essay and in others that followed, Vargas claimed to have been a dutiful taxpayer, even though he had to lie to get jobs.

“I define ‘American’ as someone who works really hard, someone who is proud to be in this country and wants to contribute to it. I’m independent. I pay taxes,” he wrote on his website, Define American, according to a June 2011 article from Southern California Public Radio.

“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,” he wrote in Time magazine in 2012.

Last year, he wrote for CNN that, “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).”

In an article for Vanity Fair last year, Vargas described his documentary “Documented,” saying that: “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.”

Vargas told Red Alert Politics that 2010 was “the last year I worked for employers before coming out as undocumented.”

“After outing myself in that article, I stopped using the doctored card my grandfather gave me — including filing my taxes with it,” he told the site through 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.”

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