Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Jose Antonio Vargas: 'I'm an American, I just don't have the right papers'

The man behind what has by far been the biggest immigration story of the week, Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, sent out this tweet a little while ago:

There comes a moment when you just crack, when enough is enough. @DefineAmerican

The emotion behind the decision that Vargas made to reveal that he is undocumented is evident in this video from his new website, Define American, an online campaign that the former Washington Post staff writer has founded in hopes of changing the conversation on immigration reform. In it, he presents his own definition:
I define "American" as someone who works really hard, someone who is proud to be in this country and wants to contribute to it. I'm independent. I pay taxes. I'm self-sufficient. I'm an American, I just don't have the right papers. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I'm sorry for the laws that I have broken.

Vargas confessed his secret in a New York Times magazine story, published today. When he was 12 years old, he was flown to the United States by a smuggler, a man that his mother introduced him to as his "uncle." Living with his grandparents in the Bay Area, he learned of his status at 16, when he went to a Department of Motor Vehicles office to obtain his driver's permit and was told there that his green card was fake.

By coming out as undocumented, Vargas has opened himself to significant personal and legal risks, The Atlantic reported today. In a short piece in the National Review, Mark Krikorian of the immigration-restriction think tank Center for Immigration Studies took the Washington Post to task as well for employing him.

The New York Times reported today that Vargas initally offered his story to the Washington Post, but the newspaper passed on publishing the story.

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