Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas is coming out. And his revelation could get him deported from the country he calls home.
Vargas revealed today that he has been living in the United States illegally since he was 13 years old. Originally from the Philippines, Vargas says his mother put him on a plane to Silicon Valley to visit his grandparents with a man he had never met before and told him he was his uncle. It was only when he turned 16 and went to register for his license did he realize the green card he had been carrying was fake. After he returned from the DMV, Vargas says his grandparents confirmed they had purchased a counterfeit green card.
In an article set to run in Sunday’s issue of New York Times Magazine, Vargas says that knowing he was an undocumented immigrant meant “living a different kind of reality” and “going about [the] day in fear of being found out.”
I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.
I’ve tried. Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.
But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.
Vargas’ revelation has put the media, especially outlets that hired him in the hot seat. Most, like The Huffington Post have disclosed the details of what they knew:
Vargas used a fake driver’s license when he first became a staff writer at The Washington Post. That license protected him for years; he even used it to get into the White House. Vargas also used fake documents during his employment with The Huffington Post.
Vargas told ABC’s Dan Harris that he is making the risky decision to admit his undocumented status as a way to fight for immigrant rights, as well as the passage of the DREAM Act, which would help undocumented children gain citizenship if they join the military or attend college.
Vargas’s interview with ABC is set to air on Thursday and Friday. The journalist says that no matter what people call undocumented workers, he calls himself an American. He writes:
There are believed to be 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. 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.