Undocumented Journalist Talks About Pulitzer in 2009 Filipino Channel Interview

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REDWOOD CITY, Calif.—Jose Antonio Vargas may have exposed himself to the world as an undocumented immigrant. But his story is an American dream realized.

Vargas was born in Antipolo, Philippines and moved to the U.S. when he was 12 in 1993.

But his mother sent him to live with his grandparents in Mountain View, California without getting proper visa for him to stay in the country legally.

In an interview with The Filipino Channel’s Adobo Nation in 2009, Vargas said moving to the U.S. was an eye-opener.

He said, “In the Philippines, when I was growing up, they did not have Black people or Jewish people. What I found fascinating was how America is identity-driven.”

Trying to find his identity as a Filipino in America was partly what drove him to become a journalist.

Vargas realized that he was an undocumented immigrant in 1997, when he tried to get a California Driver’s License with a fake I.D. provided by his family.

Despite this obstacle, he managed to go to college at San Francisco State University, where he finished with a degree in Political Science and Black Studies.

He began his career in journalism as a copy boy for the San Francisco Chronicle. He was later hired by the Washington Post as a writer.

He said, “The idea that you can ask people questions and they have to answer you was really fascinating to me. That’s why I ended up being a journalist. It’s been 10 years.”

In 2007, he was part of the Washington Post team covering the Virginia Tech shootings that earned a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting.

He said, “It was great but I would always wince a little when they say Pulitzer prize. Awards are — it’s not why you do what you do. I don’t think anybody should be defined by that.”

Vargas’ advice to young, up and coming journalists…

“Make sure you know where your heart is…to make sure you know what you are and what you want to be,” he said.

It looks like Vargas has decided that what he wants to be is an advocate for undocumented immigrants like him — whose future remains uncertain this country.