The deal is he was sent to America by his mother to live with relatives when he was really young. He didn't know he was an illegal until he went to get his driver's license when he was 16 and the DMV lady took one look at his green card and told him it was fake.
Anyway, he then spent an exhaustive amount of time trying to become legal. Along the way he also became a very successful journalist - to the point where he won the Pulitzer Prize while working for The Washington Post.
Some of the newspapers he worked for - including The Washington Post - knew he was an illegal alien. Some did not. Most, in fact, simply accepted his fake Social Security Number and didn't ask questions.
Neither did the Secret Service, which on multiple occasions did background checks on him and cleared him to cover White House events. (Seriously, the Secret Service didn't notice he was using a made up Social Security number or that his Social Security card was made at Kinkos?)
The thing is, it ruined his life. When he won the Pulitzer instead of being happy he started sobbing, because he assumed that with that much publicity he'd be outed. (Well, outed for the second time - he came out as gay in high school.)
Finally, he decided he'd had enough and didn't want to hide anymore. So, he wrote his story and took it to The Washington Post. At first they were into it, but then at the last minute they chickened out.
So, he then called up The New York Times - which liked the story so much that they completely redid the entire Sunday Times Magazine this week on 24 hours notice to run the story.
This makes logical sense, since The Times and The Post fucking hate each other.
The result has been an interesting escalation of bitching back and forth between The Times and The Post.
The Times talks about how they got the story here.
But, it's The Post's response that is more interesting:
"I’m delighted that the author found such a great home for the piece in the Sunday Magazine at The Times — certainly a fine second choice after The Washington Post Outlook section."
Because, you know, the fact that the piece documents that The Post knowingly employed an illegal alien for several years has nothing at all to do with their decision not to run the piece.