Vargas Fined $378 For Driving Without License

by Joseph G. Lariosa


CHICAGO (jGLi) Update –  Filipino Pulitzer Prize winning-journalist-turned immigration rights crusader Jose Antonio Avaga Vargas was ordered to pay a fine of $378 for a “petty misdemeanor” for driving without a valid license after “prosecutor dropped the misdemeanor charge against him.”

This was the clarification of Vargas’ lawyer Lousene M. Hoppe in an email to this reporter, saying that the “case against Vargas was resolved yesterday with no criminal plea or conviction. Vargas agreed to pay a fine for a ‘petty misdemeanor.’”

Hoppe explained that “a petty misdemeanor in Minnesota is essentially a civil infraction; it is similar to receiving a simple traffic ticket.  Mr. Vargas did not need to appear before Judge (Marilyn) Kaman, because the prosecutor dropped the misdemeanor charge against him.”

In an email to this reporter, Nancy Peters, Public Affairs – Communications Specialist of Minnesota’s 4th Judicial District, said Vargas “pled guilty to driving without a valid driver’s license and paid the petty misdemeanor fine of $378.  His attorney signed the fine payment slip.”

Court records, however, show that on Dec. 12, 2012, on the “Plea (Judicial Officer: Kaman, Marilyn J.) 1. Drivers License-Driving Without a Valid License for Vehicle Class or Type Guilty:

“12/12/2012 Disposition (Judicial Officer: Kaman, Marilyn J.) 1. Drivers License-Driving Without a Valid License for Vehicle Class or Type Convicted;”

“12/12/2012 Sentenced (Judicial Officer: Kaman, Marilyn J.) 1. Drivers License-Driving Without a Valid License for Vehicle Class or Type 10/05/2012 (PMD) 171.02.1(a)(171021a).”

The 31-year-old Vargas was driving on Interstate 35-W near 46th St. in Minneapolis at about 9 a.m. on Oct. 5, 2012 when he was stopped by a Minneapolis State Patrol officer, who ticketed him for driving without valid license.


Vargas, a native of Antipolo City, 25 miles east of Manila in the Philippines, was ordered by Judge Kaman of the 4th Judicial District of Hennepin County in Minneapolis, Minnesota to pay $300 for “Highway Patrol Within Muni-NG Plea-City Prosecutor;” $75 for “Criminal/Traffic Surcharge (once per case);” and $3.00 for “Law Library Fees” for a total of $378.00.

Judge Kaman’s staff, John McKenzie, earlier said that if there were a full-blown trial and Vargas were found guilty of the traffic violation for “driving without valid license for vehicle class or type,” Vargas could have merited a maximum of $1,000 fine and jailed for 90 days.

As a misdemeanor, Vargas’ traffic violation will not earn the attention of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which only deports undocumented immigrants involved in felony cases.

In his essay in New York Times, Vargas said he obtained a driver’s license in Washington State in 2011 after his Oregon license expired. “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.”

It was reported that Vargas’ driver’s license was revoked by Washington State but Vargas did not surrender his driver’s license. In his tell-all article in the New York Times last June 2011, Vargas outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., hoping that his hard work and love for his adopted country would give him a path to U.S. citizenship.


In 1993, Vargas was 12-years-old when his parents sent him to the U.S. to live with his grandfather in California. He had no idea he would become one of the 11.2 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. as of 2011, according to Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, in 2009, there were about 270,000 illegal immigrants from the Philippines.

In his first-person account, Vargas said his grandfather helped him produce counterfeit documents so he can obtain driver’s license and Social Security card.

Near the first anniversary of his outing last May in Chicago, he told a group that he had been in a speaking tour in 60 events in 20 states in 11 months after writing his first-person account in the New York Times Magazine on June 22, 2011.

He admitted that because he could not get a U.S. government-issued ID, he is using a Philippine passport issued to him by the Philippine government.

Days after he and about 2,000 undocumented immigrants made the cover of Time Magazine, President Barack Obama signed on to the new policy of Sec. Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security, allowing from 1.2- up to 1.7-million undocumented young immigrants to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Vargas, however, did not qualify for benefits under DACA, which only accepts 30-year-old applicants. He turned 31 last February.

He put up his own website for his immigration reform advocacy. (


Photo of Jose Antonio A. Vargas (jGLiPhoto)

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