Jose Antonio Vargas

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist, Acclaimed Filmmaker, and Immigration Advocate

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At the Podium

Jose Antonio Vargas takes audiences deeper into his story, sharing details of his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his journey through America as an immigration reform activist; and his journey inward as he re-connects with his mother, whom he hadn’t seen in person in over 20 years. With anecdotes from both his own story and the struggles of countless other undocumented immigrants in America, Vargas poignantly explores one of the most divisive questions facing our country today: how do you define “American”?

Jose was an excellent speaker—engaging, passionate, and well-educated. Our students were in awe.

- College of Charleston

About Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and theatrical producer. A leading voice for the human rights of immigrants, he founded the non-profit media and culture organization Define American, named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company. His best-selling memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, was published by HarperCollins in 2018. Most recently, he co-produced Heidi Schreck’s acclaimed play What the Constitution Means to Me, which opened on Broadway in spring 2019.

In 2011, the New York Times Magazine published a groundbreaking essay he wrote in which he revealed and chronicled his life in America as an undocumented immigrant. A year later, he appeared on the cover of TIME magazine worldwide with fellow undocumented immigrants in a follow-up cover story. He then produced and directed Documented, a documentary feature film on his undocumented experience. Broadcasted on CNN and streamed on Netflix, the film received a 2015 NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Documentary. Also in 2015, MTV aired White People, an Emmy-nominated television special he produced and directed on what it means to be young and white in a demographically changing America.

Among accolades he has received are the Freedom to Write Award from PEN Center USA and honorary degrees from Colby College and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Passionate about the role of arts in society and promoting equity in education, he serves on the advisory board of TheDream.US, a scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students.

A product of the San Francisco Bay Area, he is a proud graduate of San Francisco State University (’04), where he was named Alumnus of the Year in 2012, and Mountain View High School (’00). An elementary school named after Vargas will open in his hometown of Mountain View, California in fall 2019.

Speech Topics

  • Define American: My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant

Books and Media

Related News

The Hollywood Reporter: Immigration Doc 'Documented' Will Get Theatrical Release Prior to CNN Airing

3/14/2014

ABC News: Jose Antonio Vargas’ New Film Makes the Undocumented ‘Documented’

8/06/2013

PBS: Jose Antonio Vargas on Using Social Media to Change Perceptions and Policy

5/20/2013

Jose Antonio Vargas: Metro: Undocumented New Yorkers define ‘American’

4/24/2013

Jose Antonio Vargas: GMA News: Radio show on 'immigrant voices' to be staged live on New York's Webster Hall Apr. 20

4/19/2013

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