“Undocumented immigrant” is trending locally and nationally on Twitter after news broke that former Washington Post journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas is an undocumented immigrant.
Vargas came out about his immigration status through a New York Times Magazine story, which was published online today. Vargas, originally from the Philippines, spent years working his way through the Post newsroom ranks in D.C., and chronicles his personal history and what led him to come out:
Last year I read about four students who walked from Miami to Washington to lobby for the Dream Act, a nearly decade-old immigration bill that would provide a path to legal permanent residency for young people who have been educated in this country. At the risk of deportation — the Obama administration has deported almost 800,000 people in the last two years — they are speaking out. Their courage has inspired me.
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.
Vargas’ story struck me in particular because he spent so much time living and reporting here in D.C. He writes that during his time at the Post, “I began feeling increasingly paranoid, as if I had ‘illegal immigrant’ tattooed on my forehead — and in Washington, of all places, where the debates over immigration seemed never-ending.”
Vargas has now left traditional reporting to start Define American, a campaign meant to raise awareness about immigration. Watch this Define American-produced video to hear Vargas talk about his childhood and meet some of the individuals who have helped him along the way: