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.

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Why a Pulitzer winner is coming out as undocumented

Photo by PoliticalActivityLaw.com/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Revealing one's undocumented status as a political act has so far been embraced mostly by college students, young people eager to put a face on those who would benefit from proposed legislation known as the Dream Act. Now, that face has become a little older, a little more familiar.

In a piece published today in the New York Times Magazine, former Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas reveals the secret that has haunted him throughout his career: He is undocumented.

Vargas, who shared a Pulitzer Prize three years ago for coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre, was brought here illegally by a smuggler from the Philippines when he was 12 years old, at his mother's behest. He writes:

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.

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