Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former senior contributing editor for The Huffington Post, has revealed that he is an undocumented immigrant.
In an article in the New York Times Magazine and an interview with ABC News, Vargas says that his mother sent him to the U.S. from the Phillippines when he was twelve, telling him that she would soon join him. But she never did, and Vargas only realized that he was an undocumented immigrant when someone at his local DMV told him his green card was fake.
Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.
But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.
Vargas wrote that he used a driver's license from Oregon—which he obtained with help from friends there who allowed him to use their address as proof of residency—as legal identification when he first became a staff writer at The Washington Post. That license, along with a falsified Social Security card, protected him for years; he even used it to get into the White House.
Vargas told ABC's Dan Harris that he is making the risky decision to admit his undocumented status as a way to fight for immigrant rights, as well as the passage of the DREAM Act, which would help undocumented children gain citizenship if they join the military or attend college.
"We all have a responsibility," he said. "...You can call me whatever you want to call me, but I am an American."
Vargas also announced that he has launched a new website and campaign about immigration called "Define American."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that Vargas used fake documents when working at The Huffington Post. His account in The New York Times does not describe what kind of documents he used.