Pinoy Pulitzer winner and TNT testifies at US immigration reform hearing

Filipino journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer prize winner who came out as an undocumented immigrant in the United States, testified on Wednesday at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as part of its move to create a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Speaking for the 11 million undocumented immigrants like him, the 32-year-old Vargas said, “We dream of a path to citizenship so we can actively participate in our American democracy . . . We dream of not being separated from our families and our loved ones . . . We dream of contributing to the country we call our home.” Vargas was the only "Tago Nang Tago" (TNT) or undocumented immigrant who testified in the hearing. The other witnesses were Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; Revolution CEO Steve Case, an advocate for the increase of visas for highly skilled foreign-born workers; American Federation of Government Employees president Chris Crane; immigrant rights activist Janet Murguia; and Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. Vargas came to the hearing with his family, including his grandmother Leonora Salinas, aunt Aida Rivera, and uncle Conrad Salinas, all of whom are naturalized Americans. Immigration reform was among the agenda that US President Barack Obama laid down in his recent State of the Union Address. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 17 million people in America live in homes where one person is an undocumented immigrant, and 4.5 million children are born in America of undocumented parents. Under Obama’s immigration enforcement program, some 1.6 million immigrants have been deported, many of whom have children with US citizenship that have been left under foster care. “I am the only one who is undocumented, the sole person in the family without legal papers in America,” Vargas wrote in an essay recently in the New York Times. Fake green card A former reporter for the Washington Post, Vargas was part of the team that received a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting in 2008 for covering the Virginia Tech shootings. He “came out” as an undocumented immigrant in 2011, in an essay published by the New York Times Sunday Magazine, where he disclosed how he kept his status hidden for many years, while continuing to study, work, and pay taxes. Vargas was 12 when his mother sent him to the US to live with his grandparents. He has not seen his mother since. “My mother gave me up to give me a better life,” he said in his testimony. Applying for a driver’s permit at 16, Vargas discovered the green card his grandfather gave him was fake. Throughout his teenage life, Vargas was protected by friends and teachers from the Mountain View High School, who helped him secure financial aid for college. In 2011 Vargas founded Define American, a nonprofit group that helps encourage discussion about immigration issues. - VVP, GMA News

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