For fifteen years, Jose Antonio Vargas has kept a secret that would have changed his life. Now that he is a Pulitzer Prize winner as a journalist, he has undertaken a new cause, now much nearer to his heart and that is fighting for the plight of undocumented aliens in the United States.
Vargas revealed his secret through an essay published in the New York Times. He said that he was born in the Philippines and was sent to the US to live with his grandparents in the US when he was twelve years old. He was smuggled into the US by an uncle who acquired a fake name and passport to gain entry in 1993. He only realized that he was an illegal alien when he tried to apply for a California driver’s license. The clerk at the DMV told him his documents were fake and that he should go home and not tell anyone.
From there, he kept his undocumented status so secret. He then went on to study and become a journalist and avoided stories about immigration policy. While there were many opportunities for him to extend his stay, the lying would continue. Then he went on to report on the Virginia Tech shootings and shared a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts with the Washington Post. The story covered in 2007, depicted how South Korean student Seung-Hui Cho killed thirty-two students in the Virginia Tech University before ending his own life. This put him on the national spotlight.
He said in an interview with ABC, “In my heart, I’m an American.” He added, “I am one of many, many people and we are not who you think we are. We don’t just mow your lawns and baby-sit your kids and serve you tacos… We do a really good job doing that but we do other things and we are part of this society.”
He is now drumming up support for people in the same status as he is, but he has stopped lying. Now, he knows that the truth will set him free.