Friday, May 30, 2014

"Documented": a Pulitzer Prize journalist (Jose Antonio Vargas) tells his story as an ("illegal") immigrant caught in a Catch-22

The Pulitzer Prize journalist (the reward based in part on coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings) for the Washington Post Jose Antonio Vargas (and then the Huffington Post) outed himself  (in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, link  as an undocumented immigrant, arriving from the Philippines at age 12 in 1993 when “smuggled” into California for a better life by arrangement of his mother, whom he may never be able to see again, except through Skype.  The film “Documented”, by Vargas (and co-directed by Ann Rafaela Lupo, who shot the many scenes in the Philippines on location) tells the story, gives his autobiography. Vargas and three female immigration lawyers were present for the QA at the West End Cinema this evening.

Vargas generally would not be challenged to prove he was here legally, but could never get a green card or visa.  He was able to purchase a social security card to help make himself look legal.

Another irony is that Vargas is gay.  One hope was that he would legally marry an American woman, and be able to make his stat here legal that way.  It’s rather transparent that legal recognition of gay marriage can become critical in immigration cases.

In 2012, the Obama administration announced that “Dreamers”, people who had been in the US as minors and who had become educated and employed, could get legal status if under age 30.  Vargas was 31 by then.  He can no longer work for anyone legally now (including the Post) but has his own production company.
Vargas goes around the country and talks to a lot of ordinary people.  There’s a scene at an outdoor cafĂ© in Birmingham, AL, a place that I had just visited myself.
Vargas has founded an organization “Define American”, link here
The official site is here  The film is being distributed in a limited theatrical release by CNN and will air on CNN later in 2014. 
The Philippines is still a popular location for American companies to hire less expensive labor.  And the country is one of the most vulnerable in the world to typhoons. 
In the QA Vargas noted the paradox that he faces as a journalist: he must be objective, yet passionate in living something. The New Yorker has articles by him about Mark Zuckerberg (link) which suggest that others at Facebook thought Zuckerberg should have tried to stop the making of “The Social Network”.  

Update: July 15, 2014

Vargas has been held by authorities after protesting at McAllen, TX during the child migrant crisis.  CNN has details here.  This is a developing story and the legalities seem murky right now. 

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