Video / Multimedia
‘American,’ But Just Undocumented
Jose Antonio Vargas penned a powerful essay for the New York Times last year, detailing his journey toward achieving the American Dream from his native Philippines. He graduated from high school and college, and crafted a successful career as a journalist, yet his “dream” would remain immaterialized because despite subscribing to American values, culture, and a way of life Vargas was and still is an undocumented immigrant.
Fast forward one year and Vargas isn’t just still here, he’s still using his writing—and TIME magazine cover story platform this week to give hundreds of other brave undocumented immigrants a chance to “out themselves” about their status and struggles. With the Define American campaign—a project that documents the lives of the undocumented and seeks to define and redefine what it means to be American—undocumented immigrants are coming out of the shadows to share their stories with their friends and families, neighbors, communities, and the country they now call home but have no legal claim to.
Challenging what many of our preconceived notions of what it is to look “undocumented,” the immigrants in Vargas’ accompanying video for the story hail from places all over the globe like Nigeria, Israel and Germany—not just from our neighbors to the south of our border.
In the compilation of snipped stories, a series of common threads about what life has been like for the swaths of undocumented “Americans.” There is the weight of social stigma attached to status, the need to reconcile conflicting feelings of patriotism for a nation that has been unwilling to recognize them as first-class citizens, and the shroud of secrecy some have been forced to wear even amongst some of their closest friends, schoolmates and teachers.
One woman characterized citizenship as a way of becoming whole from the inside out, as an “outward manifestation of an inward truth.”
A young immigrant talked about finding his voice and power through organizing against anti-immigrant policies locallly, like HB 56, which not only has proven to instill a inhospitable climate for undocumented youth in Alabama but has also effectively hurt the economy by dragging down the state’s agricultural industry.
Vargas is quick to point out that these compelling stories are not just representative of the close to the12 million undocumented immigrants who currently reside here in the states, but are also about the lives of countless Americans whose lives have been inextricably linked to their fates. These are the stories of the undocumented and they’re American too.
President Obama will announce a new immigration policy this afternoon that will shield most young undocumented students eligible for the DREAM Act-- including those in deportation proceedings-- from deportation. Those who are qualified thanks to the Department of Homeland Security directive, will also be permitted to work in the United States.
The deportation "deferral" will help approximate 1 million young people pursue their American dream to pursue a postsecondary education with the possibility to obtain a job through legal means. To be eligible, applicants have to be between 15 and 30 years old, live in the U.S. for five years, have and maintain continuous U.S. residency.
Naima Ramos-Chapman is an associate editor at Campus Progress.
- Craving a Psychological Thriller? Go No Further Than Your Student Loan Bill [Film Review]
- Love Triangles With a Side of Sex-Ed: Welcome to “East Los High”
- Mass Shootings on the Rise, Even As Violent Crime Falls
- All You Need to Know About The Heritage’s Problematic Study [LINKS]
- To This Longtime Gun Owner, An Unrecognizable Industry