FLASHBACK: Reporter Told Washington Post He Was Illegal, They Employed Him For Years Anyway

REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Rob Shimshock Education Reporter
Font Size:

The Washington Post allowed activist and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas to keep his job and even promoted him after he told his editor he was an illegal immigrant, a look back at articles printed in the Post and New York Times in 2011 show.

The Post declined to comment on a June 21 Daily Caller News Foundation story regarding Vargas’s history of performing work for high-profile media companies including CNN, MTV, and The Huffington Post through several LLCs,–an act that legal experts told TheDCNF likely violated the law. (RELATED: Famous Illegal Immigrant Likely Breaking The Law With The Media’s Help)

Vargas confessed his immigration status to Peter Perl, The Washington Post’s former assistant managing editor, “about four months” into his job in 2004, according to a 2011 op-ed Vargas published in The New York Times. The newspaper subsequently kept him on for nearly five years, 2004-2009, and promoted him from intern to staff writer, according to his LinkedIn page.

“Perl kept it a secret,” wrote Patrick Pexton, ombudsman for The Washington Post, in a response to Vargas’s public confession in 2011.

Vargas told Perl his illegal immigrant status in 2004, but Perl only disclosed it to The Washington Post’s leadership in March 2011 when Vargas tried to contribute the op-ed in which he disclosed his status. The Washington Post originally considered publishing the piece but ultimately turned it down. Vargas published the piece in The New York Times.

Marcus Brauchli, executive editor for The Washington Post when Vargas pitched his 2011 op-ed, refused to publish the story, but did not share his reason for doing so.

“I did something I believed was the right thing to do,” Perl said to the paper. The editor said he believed that disclosing Vargas’s status would cost the media figure his career and perhaps trigger his deportation.

“What [Vargas] did was wrong. What [Perl] did was wrong,” said Kris Coratti, a Post spokeswoman, to The San Diego Tribune in 2011. “We are also reviewing our internal procedures, and we believe this was an isolated incident of deception.”

Perl reported that his pay was not docked, nor was he suspended or terminated for failing to disclose Vargas’s illegal immigrant status.

“[Vargas] left behind a reputation in WaPo’s newsroom for being tenacious and talented but also for being a relentless self-promoter whom many colleagues didn’t trust,” said Pexton.”Editors said that he needed direction, coaching and constant watching.”

“Perl, Vargas’s superior at WaPo, should have been fined or prosecuted for continuing to employ Vargas after he learned (from Vargas himself) that Vargas was not authorized to work in the U.S.,” Mark Krikorian, executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies, told TheDCNF. “Once this came out, WaPo should have fired Perl immediately … the fact that it didn’t implicates WaPo in the illegal activity.”

“Vargas himself committed multiple felonies (ID fraud, Social Security fraud, tax fraud) that a less-famous person, one less lionized by the left, would have been prosecuted for,” noted the immigration research executive. “He still has family in his native country, the Philippines, and his skills set — those of an English-language journalist — are very much in demand, so finding work would be easy for him.”

“If The Washington Post and The New York Times knowingly contracted with an illegal alien, which it appears they did in 2011, they’d indeed be liable under federal law,” said Dale Wilcox, executive director and general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, to TheDCNF. “That the Obama [Department of Justice] didn’t bring an action against either of them at the time obviously isn’t shocking. But it’s hoped the Trump DOJ does and that ICE places Vargas in removal proceedings as it’s obligated to do by law.”

“Repatriating him back to the Philippines would send out a very loud message and surely cause thousands of illegal aliens to self-deport on their own,” he said.

The illegal immigrant announced Thursday that he was taking a break from social media “to make space to write.”

TheDCNF reached out to Jose Antonio Vargas and The Washington Post for comment, but received none in time for publication.

Follow Rob Shimshock on Twitter

Connect with Rob Shimshock on Facebook

Send tips to

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify the timeline of events.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact