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Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas on His New Work "Documented: A Film by an Undocumented American"

"Before we change the politics of this issue, we have to change the culture of this issue."
 
 
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As comprehensive immigration reform has languished in Congress, undocumented immigrants have increasingly come forward to share their stories in order to call attention to the need for a change in federal laws. One of the leading voices has been Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. In 2011, he outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in an essay published in The New York Times Magazine. He chronicles his experience in the new film, "Documented: A Film by an Undocumented American."

 

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to turn right now to the immigrants’ rights protests.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes, well, throughout the world Thursday, millions marched in the streets to celebrate May Day, a workers’ rights holiday that has its roots in the United States, when unionized immigrant workers successfully organized to demand an eight-hour workday. Many of the day’s events in the United States focused on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. This is Dominique Hernandez of the New York State Youth Leadership Council speaking at a May Day rally here in Manhattan.

DOMINIQUE HERNANDEZ: My father worked a lot and really, really hard for me to actually be able to pay an education. Undocumented youth are not eligible to get any financial aid. And that’s what we’re working on right now. Of course it affects me directly when my father is unable to get a better job and when I’m unable to get a job because I am undocumented.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, as immigration reform languishes in Congress, undocumented immigrants have increasingly come forward to share their stories in order to call attention to the need for its passage. One of the leading voices has been Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. In 2011, he outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in an  essay published inThe New York Times Magazine. Now a new film chronicles his experience. It’s called Documented: A Film by an Undocumented American.

JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: Jose Antonio Vargas of The Washington Post.

REPORTER: Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: I lived the American dream, building a successful career as a journalist, but I was living a lie.

I’m going to tell you something that I haven’t told a lot of people. I’m actually an undocumented immigrant.

Immigration is stories. So here’s my story. My grandparents legally immigrated from the Philippines in the mid-1980s. My grandfather decided that he was going to get his grandson to come to America. One morning, my suitcase was packed. I was 12. It’s been 18 years since I’ve seen my mother. So, I’m launching a whole campaign about what it means to be an American and the fact that I am an American. There are 11 million undocumented people in this country.

In 2010, undocumented people paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes.

COLOMBIAN IMMIGRANT: My name is [inaudible]. I’m from Colombia.

NIGERIAN IMMIGRANT: From Nigeria.

BRAZILIAN IMMIGRANT: From Brazil.

GERMAN IMMIGRANT: I’m an undocumented immigrant from Germany.

JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: We mow your lawn. We work at your houses. Maybe we’re your doctors. Maybe we’re nurses. We’re not who you think we are.

MITT ROMNEY: People who have come here illegally should not be citizens of the United States.

JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: So what happens in Iowa if you discover, as a cop, that somebody is an undocumented person?

NEWS ANCHOR: A major blow for immigration reform today, the Senate voted against the DREAM Act.

LAWRENCE CALVERT: I’m a conservative, and I’m a hardcore Republican, but I don’t agree with them on this.

STEPHEN COLBERT: You’re an illegal alien.

JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: No, I’m an undocumented immigrant.

STEPHEN COLBERT: No, you’re an illegal.

 
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