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Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas to speak as part of the Diversity Lecture Series

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The Diversity Lecture Series kicks off Oct. 2 at Fountain Street Church with award winning journalist, filmmaker and activist Jose Antonio Vargas. Since 2004, Vargas has written extensively about social issues including gay rights, aids activism and the many faceted role that technology plays in our lives for national publications such as Time Magazine The New Yorker, Huffington Post and Rolling Stone, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for a series of articles on the Virginia Tech shooting published in the Washington Post.
In 2011 and in the midst of a booming journalism career, Vargas came out as an undocumented immigrant in an article published by the New York Times Sunday Magazine titled “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” Born and raised in the Philippines until age 12, he was sent to live with his grandparents in California in order to have more opportunities and a change at a better life. Four years later, when applying for a drivers license, he discovered that his immigration documents were in fact fake, and that he was not a legal citizen of the United States. Vargas kept this hidden for 15 years as he pursued and completed his education, and went on to live as a working, tax paying citizen, all the while fearing that his undocumented status would be discovered. Vargas’s article received massive attention and won the Sidney Award, an honor given to “outstanding pieces of socially conscious journalism.”
He gained more notoriety in 2012 when Time Magazine published his article “Not Legal Not Leaving,” detailing his daily life as an undocumented immigrant. The article was influential in the Obama’s administration’s decision to cease the deportation of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who qualify for the DREAM Act, a program that guides people towards citizenship through education and service in the military.
Vargas continues to write and works as an immigration activists as the founder of Define America, an organization the promotes discussion about what makes an American an American. Through his work with Define America, Vargas kept tabs on the use of the word “illegal” in media with the aim of encouraging media outlets to instead employ the less offensive term “undocumented,” and succeeded in 2013 when the Associate Press announced they would no longer be using the former.
Vargas’ work extends beyond shifting the long one sided conversation of what has become immigration in America. His articles on the often ignored aids epidemic in Washington D.C. inspired the making of The Other City, a documentary directed by Susan Koch, which Vargas wrote and co-produced. His latest film project, Documented, premiered June 22 of this year. The film depicts the journey that led him to America as a child, to eventually become one our countries most impassioned activists, and to reunite with his mother, who he last saw 20 years ago when she sent him away to a better life.