June 25, 2011
He came out of the closet twice. Once in high school when he admitted he was gay, and this week when he wrote a story for The New York Times Magazine, "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant". Jose Vargas is an illegal alien.
Vargas left the Philippines when he was 12. His mother wanted him to have a better life so she put him on a plane to California to live with his grandparents who were naturalized United States citizens.
Like most undocumented aliens, Vargas did not know he was in the U.S. illegally until he tried to get a learning permit for a driver's license when he was 16. The woman at the DMV looked at the fake green card that his lolo had given him and told him it wasn't valid. She warned him him not to show it to anyone.
After the incident, he confronted his grandfather and learned the truth.
The majority of the undocumented children attend school and interact with friends like any other child until the day when they are slapped in the face with the reality that they are undocumented.
In his heartfelt story Vargas writes:
I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.I wonder how many undocumented children have mouthed those same words. As I reflect on the undocumented students that I have the privilege of teaching or have had the opportunity to meet, I realize that most exemplify and exceed the definition of a good American. They are hard working, incredibly pure-hearted and focused on academic and lifetime success. Whether they work in the fields alongside their parents or move on to college and careers, they demonstrate patriotism, volunteer in their schools and communities, and are dedicated to the idea that they have something valuable to contribute to society.
The undocumented alien children are Americans in every sense except for legal documnentation. They are here through no fault of their own. They grew up in the U.S. and know no other home. If nothing else, the story of Vargas should open many eyes and push for the D.R.E.A.M. Act's passage and movement on comprehensive immigration reform.
Perhaps I should clarify. When I say open many eyes, I mean open the eyes of the American people. We cannot expect to open the eyes of the members of the U.S. Congress right now. The majority of the members are blinded by their own self-serving agendas and focused only on partisan, irresponsible game playing. Since the majority of the members vote primarily to ensure their own re-election rather than to advance our country's or citizens' needs, as citizens we need to push this issue to the forefront and let these members know that they will be booted from office unless they act upon this and other important issues.
Jose Vargas has a blog called Define American, which is intended to move the conversation about immigration reform forward. I suggest that you visit it and become part of the conversation!