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Undocumented Immigrants and the Definition of Being an “American”

Posted on July 4th, 2011 by Alejandra Okie 3 Comments

By Alejandra Okie

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:

Hardworking

Proud to be in America

Contributes to society

Independent

Pays taxes

Self-sufficient”

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.


Read more about Jose Antonio’s story.

Photo: Jose Antonio Vargas

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3 Responses

  1. Luis Rafael says:

    Para que mediten: Si este señor nació en Méjico y Méjico queda en un continente que desde Alaska hasta la Patagonia se llama “América”, qué es lo que iba a ganar, si ya era americano por haber nacido en este continente? O es que acaso Méjico queda en Europa, Asia o Africa?
    Ya se!!! Es que los gringos, además de robarse el oro, las esmeraldas, el petróleo etc. etc del resto de América, nos robaron también el gentilicio y sólo ellos son “americanos” Y TAMBIEN SE ROBARON LAS MENTES DE MUCHOS QUE AYUDAN A QUE ESO SUCEDA Y TAN TRANQUILOS!!!!!!

  2. Luis Rafael says:

    Cómo es posible que se de una definición de “Americano” como la puesta al inicio de este sitio, según la cual “americano” significa perteneciente a los Estados Unidos o a sus habitantes (adjetivo) o ciudadano de los Estados Unidos (sustantivo)? ¿Qué nos pasa a todos los americanos desde Argentina hasta Méjico que nos dejamos colonizar la mente y aceptar el robo de hasta nuestro gentilicio? Cambiémosle entonces el nombre al continente. Así como se llamó América por Américo Vespucio, entonces llamémoslo Triana por Rodrigo de Triana (quien realmente vio tierra americana por primera vez) o Colombia, por Colón, (con permiso de Colombia) y llamémonos todos Trianeros o Colombianos y dejemos a gringolandia solita con el nombre de América.

  3. RAFAEL MARTINEZ says:

    ME IDENTIFICO TOTALMENTE CON JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS. AUN PEOR QUE EL, SOY COMPLETAMENTE GRINGO EN MI CREENCIA, IDIOMA, ETC Y LLEVO A LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS EN MI CORAZON, PERO COMO NO NACI ALLA, NO PUEDO VIVIR ALLA. TAMBIEN AMO A MI ETNICIDAD HISPANICA Y SOY ORGULLOSO DE ELLA. PENSEMOS EN ESTO: DIOS LE DIO AL HOMBRE LA TIERRA, NO LOS PAISES.
    I TOTALLY IDENTIFY WITH JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS. I AM WORSE OFF THAN HE IS. I AM A TRUE AMERICAN AS TO MY BELEIFS, LANGUAGE AND WHAT HAVE YOU, AND THE U.S. BELONGS IN MY HEART, BUT SINCE I WAS NOT BORN IN THE U.S, I CANNOT LIVE IN THE U.S. I LOVE MY HISPANIC ETHNICITY, AND I AM PROUD OF IT. THINK OF THIS FOR A MOMENT : GOD GAVE MAN THE EARTH, NOT COUNTRIES.

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