How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

From KPCC's AirTalk: Would you 'come out' if you were in Jose Antonio Vargas' shoes?

A growing movement among undocumented college students that involves "coming out" with their immigration status has now inspired the same from a well-known journalist, Pulitzer winner Jose Antonio Vargas. His confession that he is undocumented, published yesterday in the New York Times Magazine, has drawn intense reaction while attaching a white-collar identity to the debate over illegal immigration.

A segment on today's AirTalk show, hosted by the Los Angeles Times' David Lazarus (filling in for Larry Mantle), took up the Vargas story along with the broader coming-out movement. I joined David and other guests to talk about the movement, the risks involved in going public, and the proposed federal legislation known as the Dream Act, which would grant conditional legal status to qualifying youths brought here before age 16 if they go to college or join the military.

It would apply to young people who were brought here as Vargas was, flown to the United States from the Philippines when he was 12 years old.

Among the guests were Marco Castillo, a graphic designer from San Diego who as a young professional five years ago decided to go public with his undocumented status as part of a religious campaign (and who is now working toward a green card); Nancy Meza, a recent graduate of UCLA who has been active in local efforts to lobby for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act; and David Leopold, an immigration attorney based in Cleveland and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers' Association.

Leopold was interviewed for a piece yesterday in The Atlantic that detailed the many risks that Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter, has subjected himself to by "coming out."

The audio, replete with callers' questions and comments, can be downloaded here.

A few of the questions that were featured on the AirTalk website:

Is Vargas’ high-profile “coming out” the beginning of a new immigration reform movement?

Would you have “come out” if you were in Vargas’ shoes?

What do you think should happen to him and people in a similar position?

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