You may have heard about Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who revealed to the world that he is an undocumented immigrant. When he was 12, his mother sent him to live in the U.S. with his grandparents so he could have a better life. From an early age his hope was that by working hard, making a positive contribution and loving his country he would be able to get U.S. citizenship and be recognized as an “American.”
Jose Antonio was inspired to tell his story by a group of students who walked from Miami to Washington, DC to show support for the Dream Act, a proposed law that would give undocumented students access to college and the possibility of becoming U.S. residents. In his article that appeared in June 2011 in the New York Times Magazine, Jose Antonio writes:
“There are believed to be 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. We’re not always who you think we are. Some pick your strawberries or care for your children. Some are in high school or college. And some, it turns out, write news articles you might read. I grew up here. This is my home. Yet even though I think of myself as an American and consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as one of its own.”
In a video featured on DefineAmerican.org, Jose Antonio offers his definition of an American”:
“A person who is:
Proud to be in America
Contributes to society
In the past two years, 800,000 undocumented immigrants have been deported. Jose Antonio’s decision to bring attention to the issue of immigration by telling his own story at the risk of losing his job and being deported is beyond courageous.
Jose Antonio’s wish is for the public to have a conversation about the immigration system in the U.S. and to see undocumented immigrants as what they are, human beings.
Photo: Jose Antonio Vargas