Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jose Antonio Vargas: Define American

There are an estimated 11.1 million illegal immigrants in the US right now. Many of these illegal immigrants are faceless, nameless, and with no permanent home.

Tell me if this person doesn’t fall into the definition of the usual American:

  • He grew up in Mountain View, California.
  • He attended Crittenden Middle School, Mountain View High School, and San Francisco State University and studied Political Science & Black Studies
  • Even before he graduated, he has already worked in publications like Mountain View Voice, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Daily News
  • After finishing college, he was hired by the Washington Post
  • In 2007, he and other colleagues were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for their coverage of the Virginia Tech University shootings
  • Writes an online column for the Washington Post called “Clickocracy”
  • 2009, he joined The Huffington Post as Technology and Innovations Editor
  • He’s a true master of the social media 
  • Co-producer and writer, The Other City, a documentary about the AIDS epidemic

His name is Jose Antonio Vargas. His stellar accomplishments certainly eclipse many of the curriculum vitae and résumés of a lot of ordinary Americans like him except that his life story is more than extraordinary.
Vargas came to the US as a 12-year old child. His mother sent him to the US to live with his grandparents in the Bay Area with someone introduced to him as his “uncle.” This “uncle” (a person who facilitates the border crossing of illegal immgrants) was his ticket to the American life, totally unbeknownst to him then.
He lived 20 years of his life afraid, extra careful, and vigilant because he doesn’t want people to know his secret, which he only found out when he went to DMV to get a driver’s license when he was 16, one of the passports to official adulthood, and found out that his permanent resident card or green card was fake.
In an article he wrote today for  The New York Times Magazine, Vargas officially outed himself as an undocumented immigrant. He recounted the details of his Moses-like story except that there there was no threat to his life when he left the Philippines. His mother wanted a better life for him. He made good use of the opportunity he was given and he succeeded.

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

In the hopes of re-directing and re-igniting a constructive dialogue on immigration reform especially concerning illegal immigrants in the education system, he founded "Define America." What really is the definition of an American? What is a true American?  

Jose's life story is just one of the many other stories of undocumented immigrants in the US today. He may have successfully surpassed many obstacles during his 20-year ordeal, he now hopes that Americans will listen to the stories of the others who are still undocumented. He wants to make a change. Watch him tell his story and define what is American:


  1. Well,JOSE I know how you feel,I was in the same boat with you.I wish you GOOD LUCK,GOD BLESS,GODSPEED...

  2. Part of me says, "You're an opportunist." But the greater part of me says, "You're doing a good job in bringing back the immigration reforms issue and the Dream Act to the frontline." With your accomplishments, you've shown that you deserve to live your own American Dream. Good luck.

  3. e4b71360-a289-11e0-940c-000f20980440 and Anonymous thanks for commenting. Send me a PM so that I can ask more questions about how you feel about this issue.