When Jose Antonio Vargas first spoke out about his story as an undocumented immigrant almost a year ago, I found myself sitting in a desk at the Assembly member’s office, shuffling through legislative papers in a balancing act of answering phone calls and welcoming visitors. Amidst the fast pace setting of the office, I read Vargas’s story in the New York Times and found myself humbled and thankful of my status as a legal immigrant of this country. Here, in the capitol, where laws like immigration are made in California, reading an article about the challenging life of the frailty of the undocumented immigrant experience, I felt the eeriness and unfamiliarity of relating to Jose Antonio Vargas. From a fellow Filipino immigrant transplanted here in America to another, I connected with his story, and though my family emigrated here legally almost a decade ago, I knew what it was like to grow up in an unfamiliar country, struggling to find every glimpse of ethnic and national identity hidden within the depths of this brown flesh.
What touched me the most were his words: “I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.”
His story parallels many other untold tales of the Asian American experience. The other part of us who’ve find our journeys here in America through undocumented means and are still coping with the challenges of living in the states and treated sometimes as secondary citizens. While immigration is a third rail issue, it is something that we can never hide under the rug completely. It will eventually manifest itself through the stories of people we’ve cared for, respected and long admired, and it is then that we will realize what its like to face and confront this national issue. Today, more than ever, our country is faced with the challenge of creating an equitable immigration system. Only with empowered and educated citizens and politicans can we continue to collectively find solutions for this issue.
I urge you to read more about Jose Antonio Vargas and his story, featured in the New York Times, and most recently, in the Time Magazine. Only in familiarizing ourselves with the issue and the stories behind it, can we truly decide on this matter.
Jose Antonio Vargas is Filipino. He is the face of Asian Pacific Islander heritage, of every tale fathomed by the narrative of the American Dream- of finding purpose, hope and a new future in this country.