News / USA

    What Would You Ask an Undocumented Immigrant?

    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration rights activist and self-declared undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 13, 2013, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on comprehensive immigration Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration rights activist and self-declared undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 13, 2013, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on comprehensive immigration
    x
    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration rights activist and self-declared undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 13, 2013, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on comprehensive immigration
    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration rights activist and self-declared undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 13, 2013, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on comprehensive immigration
    Jose Antonio Vargas isn’t Mexican, but he’s often asked if he is. The journalist who has become the symbolic face of undocumented immigrants in the United States is from the Philippines, and he considers himself as American as anyone else. On Tuesday, he took his story to Facebook in a live question and answer session with a curious public.

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning former Washington Post reporter has become a prominent voice in the U.S. immigration reform debate since revealing his undocumented status in a New York Times Magazine article nearly two years ago.
     
    The Facebook page of Vargas' advocacy group Define America hosted dozens of questions and comments from people who both support his activism or want him and others like him out of the country. Below are excerpts of the conversation that unfolded online over a couple hours, a reflection of the debate taking place across the country as Congress shapes new legislation to govern immigration and border security.

    Controversy
     
    Mark Krikorian Isn't getting your name and picture in the paper the best way of avoiding deportation?
     
    (Eds note: Mark Krikorian is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based research group that advocates tighter immigration restrictions.)

    Jose Antonio Vargas Not for everyone. Being public can offer protection — the key word, of course, is "can." For a few years now, undocumented youth in cities like Chicago and NYC, to name just two, have held "Coming Out of the Shadows" events, declaring that they are "undocumented and unafraid."

    Mark Krikorian Also, is it right that the Washington Post was not fined for knowing employment of an illegal immigrant? Or at least that it didn't fire Peter Perl for engaging in illegal activity on behalf of the company?
     
    Jose Antonio Vargas You can ask that question to Washington Post. Peter Perl [the Post editor who kept Vargas’ undocumented status a secret until he came out] is one my heroes, and there are countless Peter Perls across the country, aiding and helping undocumented people like me. Here's a very insightful Q&A with Peter.
     
    Jose Antonio Vargas Also, Mark, I am not "illegal" — no human being is. Your calling me "illegal" frankly says more about you than it does about me.

    Ted Hesson Have you ever heard of someone who came out as undocumented and was then deported?
     
    (Eds note: Ted Hesson is the Immigration Editor at Fusion, an ABC-Univision joint venture.)
     
    Jose Antonio Vargas Yes, I have. In 2007, Elvira Arellano wanted to stay in the U.S. with her U.S. citizen son, Saul. She took up sanctuary in a church in Chicago and after bravely sharing her plight, she was deported. Story here. Also, La Opinion has reported that Elvira Arellano still fights for family unity and migrant rights in Mexico

    Reform
     
    Tivo James Jr. Good day to you kabayan! My question is, If all of us will become legal in this country, are we allowed to leave outside the U.S.?And if we are, how soon? Thank you and mabuhay ka!

    Jose Antonio Vargas Yes, I believe so. We're still awaiting details, of course. I want to see my mother soon. It's been 20 years since I last saw her.

    Border Security

    Melvin Udall If the borders were secured and proper tracking implemented so the deluge ended, it is my belief Americans would embrace any solution to the illegal immigrant issue (including amnesty). Do you agree with this premise? If so, why is there such resistance to a closed border and reform first?
     
    Jose Antonio Vargas Yes, I agree with that premise, Melvin. So does, I think, my friend, Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. Border security is an important conversation. But we must also keep in mind a few things. First, border crossings are at a historic low. (Read this.) Second, what does U.S. foreign and economic policies have to do w/ the economic and political realities in Mexico?

    Melvin Udall Crossings are low because of economic decline. Their volume is irrelevant to the question. We agree the border should be secure or we do not. With all due respect, economic policies and realities are also irrelevant. Why is there always a "but" if we agree Americans would likely accept amnesty and, say, a series of "Ellis Island" type stations once there was genuine regulation of the border and immigration?

    Identity
     
    Catherine Eusebio In what ways do you think your gender influences your work, the effectiveness of your work, or the way people perceive you?

    Jose Antonio Vargas I am incredibly privileged to be doing what I am doing, and part of that privilege is being a man. Even though I am a gay man — that in itself comes with its own challenges — women and queer women face obstacles that I do not. It's very important to note, btw, that women and queer women (like, for example, Tania Unzueta) helped build the young immigrant movement long before the the DREAM Act hit mainstream.

    Ana Gonzalez Mr. Vargas, thank you for this session of questions and answers. How to explain this issue of undocumented immigration to a population that is compounded almost all of immigrants? Isn't that puzzling?

    Jose Antonio Vargas Sometimes I feel like a walking dusty and unread historic book, exposing America to an American that has forgotten its own history. Aside from Native Americans, who are the original Americans, and African Americans, who were forced to slavery and came to America to build our economy, we are all Americans. I often talk about Ellis Island, where 1 out of 2 Americans can trace their family members, when I talk about immigration, especially when I speak in front of audiences in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, etc. Like, between 1892 and 1954, about 12 million undocumented Europeans crossed the border that was the Atlantic Ocean and landed on Ellis Island. The new immigrants were inspected, registered and welcomed to America. Back then, Italians were called "WOPS", which stood for "without papers."

    Got questions?

    Do you have questions about what it's like to live without the proper legal documentation in the United States, or about the immigration reform process taking place in Congress? Tweet your questions to VOA's Kate Woodsome @kwoodsome or write them in the comments section below.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Larry from: AMERICA
    April 03, 2013 4:57 PM
    I'd ask him or her to serve 4 years in the American Army to become a citizen.. If he or she no I'd send him or her back to where they came from...

    by: Baja Rat
    April 03, 2013 12:20 PM
    The absolutely, positively, honest to God final amnesty EVER was passed in 1986 and signed by Ronald Reagan, who later admitted that was the biggest blunder of his presidency. What we've had is one corrupt and treasonous regime after another who have failed to give us what Reagan promised; a secure border and strict enforcement in the workplace and elsewhere. The worst regime so far is that of tin pot dictator Comrade ObaMao. This crap has got to stop. I say build a wall and deport ‘em all.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.