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Entries in Jose Antonio Vargas (2)

Friday
Jun152012

DREAM Act Advocates Cheer Obama Speech

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Although the typical partisan sniping on Capitol Hill was just getting started in Washington before President Obama’s statement Friday afternoon, a few blocks from the White House young undocumented immigrants watched the speech beaming with joy and pride in America.

Following the president’s speech there was a touching emotional moment as Gaby Pacheco, a 27-year-old DREAM Act advocate, stood and let out a sigh of relief and then spoke from the heart before the group which had assembled at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  

Pacheco praised volunteers and workers and singled out Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist who revealed last year that he was an undocumented immigrant in a New York Times essay.

Vargas is featured on the cover of this week’s Time Magazine with other undocumented immigrants in a story titled, “We are Americans.”

Pacheco has lived in the United States for two decades, arriving in Miami with her family from Ecuador.  She plans to become a doctor.

“When we have the Time magazine article that shows our beautiful faces, an array, men, women people from all over the world … representing people that want to be psychologists and doctors and dancers and artists, saying give us a chance. Today we are finally free.” Pacheco said.

“We’ve been in this golden cage and the door has been opened and now it’s our chance to be free. But with that comes a responsibility, because this not forever, this is temporary.” Pacheco said.

“With that comes the responsibility to our parents … because our parents gave everything to come to this nation. Our parents did everything, they left behind their family, their language, their careers, everything they knew to give us an opportunity. To give us that American dream that everybody comes to this Nation seeking,” Pacheco told the crowd of DREAM Act advocates.

“We have a responsibility to our friends, to our family members who have been left out. My sister who is over the age of 30, she is a dreamer. And we have a responsibility to her,” Pacheco said, referencing the age limit of undocumented immigrants being given deportation relief if they are younger than 30 and have no criminal record.

Directing remarks to her friend, 31-year old Jose Antonio Vargas, Gaby continued, “We have a responsibility to a man that made this possible. We have a responsibility to him and to this nation to continue fighting. We are going to celebrate today.”

“Because this is the power that our community has. We can no longer be ignored … this is a new chapter in the history of this country. This is a very historic moment and we have to embrace it and celebrate it and thank those that made it possible,” she said with tears in her eyes.

“This is not over, this is the beginning of a great new chapter in our lives.  I am going to continue personally my education. I going to be Dr. Pacheco,” she said as the room cheered for her.

Looking to the future and the American dream Pacheco said, “You’ll see from this group of people future congressmen, future senators, and maybe we’ll challenge the constitution and maybe get a future President … because we believe in this nation and we believe this is our country and we believe that we have a lot to give and our talents to give back. But we want to thank those that made it possible.”

Speaking to Vargas she said, “You have redefined America, you have … and we thank you for everything,” she said before hugging Vargas.

Vargas who is 31 and is not covered by Friday’s announcement, wiped the tears from his eyes and said, “she was the first person I told before the New York Times essay last summer … ”

Vargas who noted in the Time article that quietly trying to live in America, while working as a journalist weighed on him. “I carried your heart with me… I carried it… we’ve been through a lot together, there is a lot more to do because this is not complete. And together this is beyond politics, this is beyond partisanship, this is about doing the right thing.”

“I thank you for your leadership and I think you for your sacrifices and thank you for welcoming me,” Vargas told the group.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

Award-Winning Journalist Comes Out as Illegal Immigrant

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- For the past decade, Jose Antonio Vargas has pursued success in journalism. In addition to winning a Pulitzer Prize with the Washington Post for his coverage of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, he has also covered a variety of topics including presidential politics, and even scored an exclusive interview with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Throughout all of his early success, however, Vargas harbored a huge secret: he was living and working in the United States illegally.

"I wasn't supposed to be there. I wasn't supposed to be walking with Mark Zuckerberg. I wasn't supposed to be interviewing Romney's sons. Why was I doing it? Because I wanted to survive. I wanted to live. I wanted to earn what it means to be an American," Vargas told ABC News.

One morning when he was a 12-year-old boy living in the Philippines, Vargas says his mother took him to the airport -- and sent him to America. He arrived in Mountain View, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley, where he lived with his grandparents, and soon became a standout student at the local high school.

He says he spent the next four years in the dark about his citizenship status, only realizing the truth when he rode his bike to the Department of Motor Vehicles, where like his friends he wanted to apply for a driver's permit. But Vargas says the DMV told him that his green card was a fake, and warned him not to return.

After peddling home, Vargas confronted his grandfather, who finally told him the truth: he was in the U.S. illegally. It was the first moment of what would become an elaborate life of secrets, lies and ever-present fear.

"I remember the very first instinct was, okay, that's it, get rid of the accent...Because I just thought to myself, you know, I couldn't give anybody any reason to ever doubt that I'm an American," Vargas said.

After furiously studying American movies to shed his accent, he eventually discovered journalism. One motivating factor for Vargas was that if his name appeared at the top of articles, he felt it was less likely that anyone would question his immigration status.

He says he was able to land his early reporting gigs by using a doctored Social Security card his grandfather had obtained for him. But in his early 20s he got a job offer from the Washington Post -- and they told him they needed to see a driver's license.

Vargas managed to obtain one in the state of Oregon, where the laws are more relaxed, by faking documents. He received help in this process by Rich Fischer and Pat Hyland, two high-ranking public school officials in his town, with whom he had become very close during high school.

"You have to do what you have to do," Vargas said. "I wanted to work. I wanted to prove that I was worthy of being here...and I was gonna do whatever it took to prove that."

Vargas was able to obtain the license, and his career quickly took off -- with no one knowing his citizenship status. At one point he was even able to get into the White House using his fake license to cover a state dinner.

Yet after all of these years, Vargas is now outing himself as one of the millions in the United States who are living in the country illegally. He is aware of the danger he is putting himself in, and that he could be sent back to the Philippines.

Vargas says that he made up his mind last December when Congress failed to pass the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, a bill that would allow illegal immigrants who came to this country as children to become citizens, if they go to college or serve in the military.

To shine a light on a massive problem, Vargas will be starting an online campaign at defineamerican.com to push for passage of the DREAM Act, which is currently stalled in Congress.

The critics of the DREAM Act say that it will reward undocumented parents, and that it would be an open invitation to fraud, giving an incentive to parents in other countries to come to the U.S. illegally with their children.

"Are we seriously going to deport 11 million people?" Vargas asks. "That's the estimated number of undocumented people in this country. We're not seriously going to do that. We have not had a really serious conversation about this issue. We are a part of this society. And I think everyone deserves dignity," he added.

His goal now is to change a law while changing the outlook of thousands of children whose dream is to become citizens.

"You can call me whatever you want to call me, but I am an American," Vargas said. "No one can take that away from me. No, no one can."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio