MANILA, Philippines – Almost 3 years ago, Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winning-journalist, published an essay in the New York Times Magazine titled "My Life As An Undocumented Immigrant." The controversial essay fueled fierce debates on what is arguably the US' most polarizing issue: immigration reform.
Rappler talked to Jose Antonio Vargas along with 2 other guests involved in the US immigration reform movement on Thursday, July 3. (READ: Waiting for a sign: Obama, Pinoys and the US immigration debate)
Watch the hangout below.
Vargas was 12 years old in 1993 when his young mother put him on a flight from Manila to be raised by his grandparents in California, in hopes of living the American dream. He didn’t know he was undocumented until he tried to obtain a driver's license at the age of 16. He worked for years as a reporter for major news outlets such as the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Philadelphia Daily News and the Huffington Post without legal authorization to work in the United States.
His life since then as a leader in the fight for immigration reform in the United States is the subject of a documentary titled Documented. Vargas directed and produced the film. (READ: Pinoy films 'undocumented immigrant' story)
In a December 2013 White House press briefing, US President Barack Obama told reporters immigration reform is "the biggest thing that I wanted to get done this year.”
Despite the US Senate passing the biggest overhaul in immigration reform legislation in July 2013, the US House of Representatives has yet to move on any reform legislation, leaving 11 million undocumented immigrants in America frustrated. Vargas tours the United States talking about the need to reform the country’s immigration system.
According to latest reports, there are at least 300,000 Filipinos living in the US without proper documentation. Vargas is still a part of that number.
Below is the list of guests joining us via Google Hangout:
• Jose Antonio Vargas: Philippine-born journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for covering the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. Vargas is the director of Documented.
• Immigration lawyer Rio Guerrero from New York City
• Akiko Aspillaga, a TED Aspire speakers and young undocumented Filipino American.
Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa moderated the discussion.
Joining the conversation on Twitter with netizens across the United States and the Philippines are the communities of Define American, a non-profit organization which encourages communities to re-think traditional criteria of what it means to be an American; and NextDayBetter, a New York-based organization that ‘highlights inspiring changemakers, creatives and entrepreneurs from the diaspora focusing on creating a better future.’
You can continue to join the conversation by using the #Documented. "Documented" premieres nationally on CNN Sunday, June 29 at 9 pm on the East Coast, 6 pm on the West Coast and again on 11 pm ET/ 9 pm PT – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com