Blog: Define American

How do you define American?

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.

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David H. Perez May 24, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Rebecca, I will acknowledge that Jose's story is truly exceptional. But consider this. There are groups like the Brown Berets who think that current citizens of "Anglo" ancestry should "go back to Plymouth Rock" because of what happened generations ago. How are my "Anglo" relatives personally responsible for what happened to Native Americans and the people from Mexico generations ago? But we have what we have now, and the law is the law, so the militant types need to get over it. These kids you are talking about are still here illegally, no matter what country their parents brought them from, and yes, it is a shame they are profiled and penalized because of the "sins" of their parents. Maybe there should be a way for them to earn an education and citizenship, and I would support this provided the present and future tide of illegal immigration is stopped. But the Brown Berets and other militant gangs need to get over it - THIS IS AMERICA! I wonder if you would put as much energy into helping Inge from Germany, or Patrick from Ireland, whose parents also brought them here illegally???
Rebecca Garcia May 24, 2012 at 02:22 PM
David, Yes I would definitely support the “illegals” from Germany and Ireland, especially the Irish since they have been strong allies of Mexicans both in the United States and in México. All the European illegals who came to the U.S. through Ellis Island were immediately given residency status. In fact when my mother came to the U.S. from México in the late 1920’s she, too was given residency. She later became a naturalized citizen. So I strongly agree that immigration reform needs to take place. I have absolutely no experience with the Brown Berets. I know about their behavior through what I read in the newspaper. I remember when in 1994 I returned to Watsonville with a carload of youth after attending a meeting in Santa Cruz about community alcohol and drug prevention. Upon arrival we hear of the tragic killing of Jessica Cortez (age 9) and her brother George (age 16). My understanding is that as a result of these murders the Brown Berets came together to fight violence and gangs. They now have the annual Peace March, they provide academic mentoring and tutoring, and they do community advocacy such as the naming of Cesar Chavez Middle School. I am sure there are other positive activities they have completed that I can’t remember. The message I would like to give is that all of us including undocumented immigrants and the Brown Berets live under one nation, under one God and we all need to live in harmony.
roynsann1 December 14, 2013 at 07:55 PM
A very simple solution to this. Become a citizen. If you want all the priviliges, then go the extra step and show you want to be an AMERICAN. So simple.


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