I recently had the opportunity to attend a fundraising event put on by the Dreamweavers Society at U.C. Santa Cruz. This Society is a group of UCSC faculty, staff, administrators, and community members who are raising funds for scholarships for their AB 540 students (undocumented). They recognize that these students who have qualified for entrance to the university need financial assistance to complete their “American Dream”.
At an after-event I had the privilege of listening to José Antonio Vargas, a Filipino immigrant who is a renown journalist and who has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his work on the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. He has worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Daily, Huffington Post and Washington Post. Jose was seen as a success story who had reached the American Dream. However, there was a problem. The problem is that José is an undocumented immigrant.
At the age of 12 José’ mother sent him from the Philippines to live with his naturalized grandparents in Mountain View, CA. In the Philippines he had learned English and he excelled in school in Mountain View. However, when at the age of 16 he went to the DMV to get his driver’s license and he showed his green card he was told that it was a fake and not to return. He did not know that he was undocumented and he should not be in the United States. He was devastated. He did not know what to do. But he had a high school teacher who directed him towards journalism and upon graduation he had a principal who obtained a four-year scholarship for him to attend San Francisco State University. They knew he was undocumented.
José became a very successful journalist. He was seen as an American, but he was suffering from the pain of living a lie. Last summer he wrote an essay for the New York Times Magazine, My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant. He “came out”. He now goes throughout the U.S. telling his story and encourages other undocumented immigrants to reach out to those who are willing to help. There are many who will help. José has established a website, Define American.com where business people, celebrities, politicians, and undocumented immigrants share their thoughts on what an American is. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton states. “ When I think about Americans, I think of America as an idea, as much as a place. People who believe in freedom. People who want to pursue their own God-given talents in a system that rewards hard work and effort.” All the stories on this website support the need for immigration reform and the support of undocumented immigrants.
Just like José Antonio Vargas are committed to working hard to complete their education. They are committed to protecting their freedom and the freedom of others. They are committed to serving their community. They are Americans. They deserve the opportunity and support to achieve the American Dream.