How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Readers react to the confession of an undocumented Pulitzer winner

Photo by Campus Progress/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Jose Antonio Vargas during a panel appearance in July 2008, the year he and other Washington Post reporters shared a Pulitzer for coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting.

It's not an overstatement to say that the story of Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-winning former Washington Post journalist who has admitted to being undocumented, has made its way around the world by now, from Europe to the Philippines.

In a confessional essay published yesterday in the New York Times Magazine, Vargas related how his mother sent him to the United States from the Philippines at age 12 with a smuggler, how he learned he was undocumented at 16 and how he has kept the secret since, navigating school and career with a network of close confidantes, false papers and an out-of-state driver's license.

The story spread quickly through social media channels, prompting reactions that have ranged from intense anger to applause. Pundits, even former employers have weighed in with their opinions, including San Francisco Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein, who once employed Vargas and wrote about being "duped" before saying that he hoped the story would at least "help craft sane immigration policy."

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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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