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    Rep. Gallegly rips ICE, Antonio Vargas

    By KATIE GLUECK | 10/9/12 4:22 PM EDT Updated: 10/9/12 4:48 PM EDT

    Rep. Gallegly said Vargas' case is an example of how the system is flawed. | AP Photo

    The chairman of a House subcommittee on immigration slammed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s handling of the arrest of journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas, saying Tuesday that the agency has set a dangerous precedent for dealing with undocumented immigrants.

    “Jose Antonio Vargas is a classic example of how flawed the system is,” Rep. Elton Gallegly, a California Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, told POLITICO. “He is just one of hundreds of thousands that are ignored, and what that does is, it sends a signal that we’re not serious about certain laws.”

    Gallegly’s comments came after Vargas was arrested on Friday — and later released — after allegedly committing a driving infraction in Minnesota. ICE was notified because Vargas, who went public in The New York Times Magazine last year with his status as an undocumented immigrant, provided a canceled driver’s license, according to a Minnesota state patrol spokesman. But the agency took no action, telling POLITICO in a statement Monday that ICE “prioritizes the removal of public safety threats, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators.” ICE declined to comment further on Tuesday.

    Vargas has said that in the past, he altered documents in order to be eligible for work in the United States, and has since had driver’s licenses revoked after his story raised questions. Gallegly said that such doctoring is a felony, and blasted ICE for not holding Vargas accountable when the agency was alerted to his case.

    “If you go out and you pass out $100 [counterfeit] bills, and someone from the U.S. Treasury, a federal officer, sees, you think they’re going to say, ‘That’s OK, give me the other ones and have a nice day’?” Gallegly said. “That’s what ICE has done here. By letting him go when he openly admitted to using forged documents, and that alone is a felony.”

    Gallegly, who said that Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is likely “not a dumb guy,” also had harsh words for him at a more personal level.

    “For him to have the audacity, the arrogance to write an essay saying, ‘Hey, I committed a felony, I committed fraud, but it’s OK,’ it cost him his driver’s license, but he’s arrogant enough to know, ‘I don’t need a driver’s license,’ [and] he gets stopped in Minnesota and learns — I guess, he really doesn’t,” Gallegly said, though he also acknowledged that Vargas has a hearing slated for Oct. 18.

    Vargas did not respond to request for comment.

    ICE’s decision on Vargas, Gallegly said, is emblematic of the Obama administration’s broader approach to immigration enforcement.

    “I can’t speak to what is in the mind or heart of the [ICE] officer that goes out there, but I can speak to the authority they have to answer to, and this is clearly the policy of the agency,” he said. “Whether you’re talking about Janet Napolitano or Eric Holder or President Obama, this is the policy of their administration.”

    Gallegly said the administration engages in “selective enforcement.”

    ”We have an administration that is responsible for enforcing the federal laws,” Gallegly said. “And whenever you’re doing selective enforcement, [saying,] ‘Hey, I don’t like this law…the administration is not the one that makes decisions about which laws we enforce and which we don’t. If you don’t like a law, work to change them, don’t just arbitrarily ignore them or say, ‘Hey, it’s OK.’ The signal that sends to everyone coming here that’s illegal or staying that’s illegal, knows there’s no consequence for it.”

    Rep. Gallegly rips ICE, Antonio Vargas - Katie Glueck -
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