Engaged Learning

Jose Antonio Vargas Visits USF

Pulitzer winner and immigrant rights activists speaks at diversity forum

by Ed Carpenter, Office of Marketing Communications

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist turned immigrant rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas spoke at the University of San Francisco Sept. 27. He told an audience of about 300 that immigrant rights are the next liberation movement.

“For some, we are political footballs,” Vargas said, which are used to pander to constituents and divide neighbors and coworkers. “But, the reality is that we’re talking about people’s lives."

Focus is on state laws

He encouraged students who asked about joining the cause to focus their support at the state level because bitter divisions in the U.S. House of Representatives have stalled action on the DREAM Act and other immigration legislation at the national level. There are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. About 1 million are under age 18 and almost 5 million were born in the U.S. to undocumented parents.

Vargas spoke at USF’s third annual Critical Diversity Fall Forum where he addressed the symposium’s theme, “Dreaming on,” about efforts to realize Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for America 50 years after the March on Washington.

Going public

Vargas won a 2008 Pulitzer Prize, as part of the Washington Post team that covered the Virginia Tech shootings. In 2011, He became America’s most famous undocumented immigrant when he published a groundbreaking essay in The New York Times Magazine. In it, he revealed his undocumented status and chronicled his life as a Filipino immigrant who was brought to the U.S. by his parents. A year later, he wrote a cover story and was pictured on the front of Time magazine with other undocumented immigrants. He is the founder of Define American, an advocacy group that works to elevate the American conversation about immigration policy.

Sandra R. Hernàndez, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, and Awele Makeba, an award-winning storyteller/teaching artist, literacy specialist, and recording artist, were also features speakers at the forum. Hernàndez discussed the rights of the disabled. Makeba spoke on the legacy of civil rights.

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