Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas
Jose Antonio Vargas
  • Born: February 3, 1981
  • Nationality: Filipino
  • Profession: Journalist, Filmmaker, Activist









Jose Antonio Vargas is a journalist, filmmaker, and immigration rights activist. Born in the Philippines and raised in the United States from the age of twelve, he was part of The Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting in 2008 for coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting online and in print. Vargas has also worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Philadelphia Daily News, and The Huffington Post. He wrote, produced, and directed the autobiographical 2013 film, Documented, which CNN Films broadcast in June 2014.

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A broken immigration system means broken families and broken lives.
After I arrived in Mountain View, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, I entered sixth grade and quickly grew to love my new home, family and culture. I discovered a passion for language, though it was hard to learn the difference between formal English and American slang. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Families, Children & Parenting
All I've ever done since I was 17 is tell stories. You know, I'm a storyteller. And that's what I'm going to keep on doing, especially now, kind of embracing and making sure that we tell immigration.
As a gay man, I think the role of culture is central to how you change politics - culture is politics. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
As a newcomer to America who learned to 'speak American' by watching movies, I firmly believe that to change the politics of immigration and citizenship, we must change culture - the way we portray undocumented people like me and our role in society. Society ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
As I graduated from public schools and started working in newsrooms, I told myself that I am only the 'illegal' that my own country has not bothered to get to know.
As you watch 'Documented' on CNN, I ask you, my fellow Americans: What do you want to do with me? What do you want to do with us? How do you define American?
At the end of the day, stories connect us, not politics. And there's so many stories out there waiting to be told. It's just a matter of who's out there listening. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Culture is about humanizing people. You look at the African-American civil rights movement, you look at the LGBT rights movement - the culture changed before the politics did. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Demographically speaking, young white people are not in the majority in this country; they're in the minority. My question is, if they're not the majority anymore, then what happens? How do things change? Or do they change at all?
Everyone has an opinion when it comes to immigration - strong, intense opinions.
Facebook's headquarters is a two-story building at the end of a quiet, tree-lined street. Zuckerberg nicknamed it the Bunker. Facebook has grown so fast that this is the company's fifth home in six years - the third in Palo Alto. There is virtually no indication outside of the Bunker's tenant.
Facebook's privacy policies are confusing to many people, and the company has changed them frequently, almost always allowing more information to be exposed in more ways.
Film in many ways is very literal.
For decades, I have cringed whenever someone called me 'illegal,' as if I'm an insect on someone's back. I found out I didn't have the right papers - that I was here illegally - when I tried to get a driver's permit at age 16. But I am not 'illegal.' No person is.
I am more than an immigration activist.
I am not a lobbyist. I am not a political activist. I am not a leader, as far as I'm concerned.
I am undoubtedly one of the more, if not the most, privileged undocumented immigrants in America. And for us at Define American, which is this culture campaign group that I founded with some friends, culture trumps politics. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
I believe fundamentally in the kindness of the American people because I have been a beneficiary of it.
I can't marry my way into citizenship like straight people can. I can get married in the state of New York where I live, but because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government, which hands out visas, won't recognize my marriage. Government ;Families, Children & Parenting
I did not realize how broken I was until I saw how broken Mama was.
I don't think there's any other issue out there that young people are more passionate, and more ahead in, than global warming.
I found out that I was illegal when I was 16. I'm gay. I'm Filipino.
I guess, as a reporter, I always thought that my biggest strength was that I could get anybody to talk to me. I wasn't the best writer, but I could get people to talk to me.
I have no control whatsoever on how people perceive me from the Right or the Left. All I have control over is who I say I am.
I remember the first article I ever wrote, and I saw my name in the paper, and I already knew I was undocumented, and I was thinking: 'How can they now say I don't exist?'
I think everybody could agree that our immigration system is broken. We have not told the truth about it. Truth
I think everyone deserves dignity.
I think the hardest stories we tell are always the ones about ourselves. And as a journalist, I was taught that I'm never supposed to put myself in the story. So I spent what, 11, 12 years of my life writing about other people so I don't have to face my own life. Life
I traffic in empathy. I try to be vulnerable with people so they can be vulnerable back. I've always been searching for empathy in other people. It's when I feel most not alone.
I want to be as creatively disruptive as possible. I want to be radically transparent in a way that isn't showboating.
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.
I worked for 'The Chronicle' in San Francisco, and immigration is a big issue in that region.
I'm a gay, undocumented immigrant; I have to be optimistic.
I'm a journalist, and I'm a filmmaker. I have an organization that's all about telling stories.
I'm more than willing to go to places and talk to people who believe that I am an illegal alien who deserves to be jailed. I want to look them in the eye and say, 'What makes you think I'm any different from you?' I think for our generation, immigration rights is a civil rights issue.
I'm not a minority: I'm a majority of one. We all are. To call someone a minority, you give them baggage, of not being full, or not being seen as full. All of us need to be seen as full human beings.
I'm sure the president doesn't enjoy being called deporter-in-chief.
In 2005, MTV Networks considered buying Facebook for seventy-five million dollars. Yahoo! and Microsoft soon offered much more. Zuckerberg turned them all down.
In 2007, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would become a 'platform,' meaning that outside developers could start creating applications that would run inside the site. It worked.
In many ways, I think I've always overcompensated. I was always almost too careful, because I knew if anybody ever found any way to doubt my work, then they'd start picking my life apart, too. Life ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
In Tagalog, we call undocumented people 'TNT,' which means tago ng tago, which means 'hiding and hiding.' So that's literally what undocumented means in Tagalog. And that kind of tells you how Filipinos think of this issue, and really any culture, right?
It's not my job to worry about how Left, Right will react to something. My job is, am I creating something that connects people? That's my job.
I've always really wanted to make a film on what it means to be white in a country that's getting less and less white.
I've been uncomfortable dealing with my identity since I was 16 years old.
Kathy Dewar, my high-school English teacher, introduced me to journalism. From the moment I wrote my first article for the student paper, I convinced myself that having my name in print - writing in English, interviewing Americans - validated my presence here. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Laws are getting passed in states like Alabama that basically would punish American citizens who are 'harboring' people. Since the federal government hasn't been able to muster or to get comprehensive immigration reform passed, states are taking it upon themselves to police and enforce laws. Government
Left-leaning bloggers have had a tremendous impact on the Democratic Party.
My being gay is not a social issue; it's a fact. It's not something to be debated. It's a reality.
My mother made a choice. And when I was younger, I judged her for making that choice. Then I got older and got to be an adult, and I realized that was the ultimate sacrifice that any parent and any mother could possibly make.
Of all the questions I get asked as an undocumented immigrant in the United States, there are two - asked in various permutations via email, social media or in person - that chill me to the bone: 'Why don't you just make yourself legal?' And: 'Why don't you get in the back of the line?' Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
On the surface, I've created a good life. I've lived the American dream. But I am still an undocumented immigrant. Life
One day when I was 16, I rode my bike to the nearby DMV office to get my driver's permit. Some of my friends already had their licenses, so I figured it was time. But when I handed the clerk my green card as proof of U.S. residency, she flipped it around, examining it. 'This is fake,' she whispered. 'Don't come back here again.' Time
People don't really assume that I'm Filipino. Of course, they're gonna think, 'Oh, are you some sort of Hispanic?' and you say, 'No, I'm actually not.' I get Korean or Chinese a lot.
Since I got to this country when I was 12, I've been obsessed with this idea of whiteness and blackness because I realized I was neither. For me, it was so important to me to make a film that focused on whiteness because you wouldn't have blackness if you didn't have whiteness.
Technology and the Internet are not just changing politics here in the U.S. It's also happening abroad. In the Philippines, where I grew up, grassroots organizers used text messaging to help overthrow a president. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The fact of the matter is, this country is not going to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. What are we supposed to do with them? What are we supposed to do with these kids?
The film 'Documented,' a project of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Define American campaign, is about my families: the family I was blessed to be born into, and the family of friends, mentors and allies that I found when I moved to the United States at 12, a Filipino kid trying to make sense of my new home in America. Families, Children & Parenting
The Internet is changing the way we think of our relationship with government; it has the potential to bring to life what Abraham Lincoln said about the presidency being an instrument of the people. Life ;Government
The more successful I got, the more scared I got. My name was all over Google. I had a Wikipedia page I was terrified to look at. And so I just snapped. I thought, 'If I'm going to come out with this, I'm going to do it in a big way. And not just for myself. This can't just be my story.'
The story of undocumented immigrants in this country is not just about undocumented immigrants. It's about the country as a whole, and it's about us being able to tell the truth about where we are with this issue because we haven't been telling the truth about where we are with this issue. Truth
There were many factors as to why I decided to come out as being undocumented. One of them is because I look the way that I look; I don't look like the 'stereotypical undocumented' person.
To me, politics is culture. I became a journalist, and later a filmmaker, to get to know my new country and my volatile place in it as a gay, undocumented Filipino-American. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Undocumented people get arrested all the time. I get arrested, and it's front-page news. I feel guilt. Time
We cannot change the politics issue until we change the culture around it; until we talk about what parents do for their kids as an act of love. That's a cultural conversation. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
When I was a kid, I resented my grandparents not speaking the perfect English I wanted to speak.
When I was younger, I didn't understand how a mother could put her son on a plane and just say, you know, 'Here you go, I'll see you later.' And she never followed, she never came.
When I'm writing, I can always play around with tense. I can always make past present. I can always kind of manipulate, and I can always be delusional in a way that's completely self-serving. With film, it's like, the camera can't really lie. It can manipulate to a certain extent.
When it comes to fighting for citizenship that many people take for granted, there isn't anyone I would not talk to. When it comes to immigration, there isn't any question I will not answer.
When people saw that the film was called 'White People,' many got very defensive. I've been getting some very interesting emails - and I'm used to hate mail, believe me. I think this idea that we grouped white people together is offensive to people.
When you're undocumented, you're supposed to keep your head down and be quiet and pay taxes, social security - even though people don't know that we do those things - and not say anything.
While in high school, I worked part time at Subway, then at the front desk of the local YMCA, then at a tennis club, until I landed an unpaid internship at 'The Mountain View Voice,' my hometown newspaper. Time
You can call me whatever you want to call me, but I am an American. No one can take that away from me. No, no one can.
You have to do what you have to do. 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. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
You know, I'm one of millions of undocumented people in this country who are living kind of under the shadows. And in many ways, coming out, it was my way of - at the end of the day, I think we have to tell the truth about this immigration system. And because of that, I had to tell the truth about myself. Truth