Jose Vargas talks about immigration
Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas spoke Wednesday night about the importance of broadening their definition of Americans to include immigrants and the need for immigration reform.
The event, sponsored by USC Spectrum and Undergraduate Student Governmentâs Program Board, had the support of Asian Pacific American Student Assembly, Queer & Ally Student Assembly and the Speakers Committee.
Vargas, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his teamâs coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings, is especially known for âcoming outâ as an undocumented immigrant in an article he wrote for the New York Times Magazine. Since then, he founded DefineAmerican, a campaign that discusses Americaâs immigration system.
âImmigration is more complicated than legal versus illegal,â Vargas said. âItâs not black and white. Itâs living in limbo and living in a gray area, making difficult, sometimes impossible, choices.â
Vargas, who used the event to tell his story as an undocumented American and a gay man, encouraged students to speak out for reform in America because there is currently no line for immigrants to become legal citizens.
âEvery 30 seconds, a Latino in America turns 18 years old and becomes an eligible voter â every 30 seconds. In 21st-century American politics, diversity is destiny,â Vargas said of the future of minorities and immigrants in America, which he compared to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Vargas said students can take a small step toward progressively is changing their terminology.
âTo me, âillegalâ is such a slur,â Vargas said, âI already believed that, and then I went to the South, … where they have this crazy fear of something they canât even tell you what itâs about.â
Director of USC Spectrum Dane Martens thought it was important to bring Vargas because of the relevance of immigration today.
âImmigration is something thatâs on the top of everyoneâs list nationally speaking and I think very much locally as well,â Martens said. âI think itâs going to speak to a lot of issues weâre trying to deal with in this country right now.â
Executive Director of Program Board Juan Espinoza agreed with Martens.
âItâs a pivotal time with immigration policy,â Espinoza said. âItâs something that Obamaâs announced that heâs definitely put at the front of issues to deal with.â
Some students like Kevin Tsukii, a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism, found Vargasâ speech both educational and inspiring.
âI went in to it with this idea that, first, I didnât know he was Filipino, I didnât know he was gay, I didnât know a lot of things about him,â Tsukii said. âI just knew that he came out as undocumented. Iâm really glad I came and Iâm really glad heâs here.â
Yvette Chua, a freshman majoring in international relations, praised Vargas for giving a voice to an underrepresented community.
âI thought it was really inspiring for an undocumented person to come out like that,â Chua said. âI think heâs just a public figure that the undocumented community needs because he gives the undocumented community a voice.â