WHEN Jose Antonio Vargas outed himself as an illegal alien and a gay in the cover of the popular New York Times Sunday Magazine, there was a collective gasp: Why did he do that?

He would surely be deported, everybody thought.

Quite the contrary.

Vargas not only was not deported but he became an overnight sensation, and turned into the most prominent advocate of nearly 12 million undocumented workers in the United States.

This was followed by another cover article in Time, featuring Vargas and 35 other undocumented workers who revealed their names and told their stories in the influential weekly magazine.

Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winner while a reporter at The Washington Post, wrote the article himself.

“We are not who you think we are,” Vargas said on “CBS This Morning” program.

“To me, the power of this Time magazine cover is, you have 35 people here from 15 different countries...You know, when we think about illegal immigration, we seem to think it’s all about Mexicans and the border. That’s not the reality.”

Many more of these underground workers have since been emboldened by Vargas’ gutsy disclosure and are coming out in the open themselves.

Placed on the spot, the Obama Administration leaned over backward and, in an executive decree, stopped the deportation of aliens under 30 who came here before age 16, have no criminal record, served in the nation’s military and graduated from high school.

This move was viewed as politically-inspired, aimed at Hispanic voters, a Democratic base that might swing to the GOP in the November elections. So, President Obama is playing it safe.

If elected, Republican presidential designate Mitt Romney wants to do better than Obama by offering green cards to qualified illegals.

But within weeks of Obama’s order, the administration was elated by a Supreme Court split decision, striking down key parts of an oppressive Arizona immigration law.

However, the court upheld the law’s most controversial provision authorizing law enforcers to ask for the legal status of persons stopped or detained on suspicion of being here illegally.

With the ink hardly dry, the same Supreme Court, by a 5-to-4 vote, handed the administration another victory when it upheld the heart of President Obama’s health care law.

The ruling compels Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, which opponents call a tax, in plain language.

While not directly affected by Obamacare, about 800,000 illegal workers who have been spared from deportation can buy into state-run exchanges for affordable insurance plans.

They can be covered because the administration has granted them legal status and a two-year work permit.

The road to citizenship, however, remains to be a huge hurdle for the greater mass of illegal aliens.

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