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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora