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Santa Ana : Officer Vargas Honored for Work With Latinos

Jose Vargas, a former undocumented worker who rose to become the only full-time police liaison for Latinos in Orange County, was honored for his work by community leaders Wednesday night and characterized as a “trailblazer” and a “diplomat.”

Vargas, 49, joined the city’s Police Department in 1975 and was appointed to the liaison position by Chief Raymond C. Davis in 1979. His work includes mediation of Latino affairs, maintaining relations with the government and various police departments in Mexico and writing a column in a local Spanish-language newspaper advising Latinos of their rights and explaining U.S. laws.

After receiving commendations from several organizations, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, state Sen. Ed Royce (R-Santa Ana) and Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Garden Grove), Vargas stressed that cooperation between the Anglo and Latino communities is his goal.

“The thousands of Latinos coming here from Central and South America all have one thing in common--they’re ignorant of our system,” said Vargas, who was himself arrested and deported 12 times after emigrating illegally before finally attaining citizenship, a college degree and eventually a job as a police officer. “We share a border with less fortunate people. As long as we share that border, people will be coming in.”

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Mayor Dan Griset called Vargas, who was chosen as one of 10 Police Officers of the Year nationally in 1977, “a trailblazer” and said he “builds bridges that we can all cross” between the two communities.

Gaddi Vasquez, a deputy assistant to Gov. George Deukmejian, presented a letter from the governor and then joked that Deukmejian had called him into his office before signing it. “He said to me: ‘Gaddi, we give out a lot of letters and commendations. But for a guy who’s been arrested and deported 12 times?’ ”


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