The Gainsville Sun: Pulitzer Prize winner speaks out about immigration

January 30th, 2012

The Gainsville Sun
January 30, 2012
By Nathan Crabbe

Jose Antonio Vargas revealed himself to be an undocumented immigrant last year in a story that he wrote for The New York Times Magazine.

He said Monday at the University of Florida that a number of immigration lawyers advised him against writing the piece, but he felt he needed to speak out.

“I don’t know if we can really afford to be silent anymore about this issue,” he said.

Vargas spoke to a crowd of more than 120 at UF’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service. He was a reporter for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post and other news outlets before founding Define American, a campaign that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration.

He criticized the language used in the immigration debate, with people who used to be called “first-generation Americans” now being called “anchor babies.”

“Before we can even talk about any piece of legislation, I think we all have to acknowledge that the way we talk about this issue is so fundamentally broken,” he said.

Born in the Philippines, Vargas’ mother sent him to the U.S. at age 12 for a better life. He wasn’t aware that he was living in the country illegally until he was 16, when he was turned away from getting a driver’s license because of a fake green card.

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