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CNN Films: Documented

Aired June 29, 2014 - 21:00   ET


JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, UNDOCUMENTED JOURNALIST: Growing up in the Philippines, I always knew I was going to America. America seemed inevitable.

What I remember most about Manila was the air. There was something about the air that was heavy.

My mother and I lived in a small house. We slept in the same bed. We were always together. We were inseparable.

One morning, my mother woke me up. My suitcase was packed, a cab waited outside for me. When I got to the airport, I was introduced to a man I had never met. He held my hand as I boarded an airplane for the first time. It was 1993. I was 12.

Hi. I'm Juan Antonio Vargas, contributing for

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jose Antonio Vargas of the "Washington Post," we thank you for your insight.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Antonio Vargas is a technology and innovation editor for the "Huffington Post" in New York.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jose Antonio Vargas whose rare exclusive interview with the founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg is in this week's "New Yorker."

VARGAS: I lived the American dream. Building a successful career as a journalist. But I was living a lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear that the testimony you're about to give before the committee be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?


I got invited to talk to the journalism class of my high school, Mountain View High School. I co-edited the school paper and was talking to the journalism class, the Oracle, which is where I got my start.

I owe a lot to this community so any chance that I can like actually do something, I try to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very fortunate to have Jose.

VARGAS: Thank you for taking the time. I can't think of a more exciting time to be a journalist. I am working right now on illegal immigration. Guess what the Dream Act is? Basically kids who are undocumented who got here when they were young, they are illegal alien, undocumented immigrant but they've gone through college or they've gone through high school or middle school, so there should be a path to citizenship, right?

Some people call it amnesty. Some people say that, you know, it's not these kids' fault that they're here. I wonder if there are any Dream Act -- sir, do you know if there are a lot of Dream Act kids in this school district? There are. Yes.

Let me ask you this question. Who do you think -- can you give me some sort of, if you were to describe to me who is somebody who is undocumented or an illegal alien or illegal immigrant or undocumented immigration, what do you start thinking? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not trying to be racist, but Hispanic people? They're like just in that area.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's just like from my perspective. I know there are a bunch of others but whenever I think of someone -- I get the mindset.

VARGAS: Yes. You know, we all know the day laborers that hang out on El Camino, looking for jobs at Home Depot, right? They're not the only people who are undocumented. So I'm going to tell you something that I haven't told a lot of people. OK?

So I'm actually an undocumented immigrant. I am an illegal alien person, sort of. I mean, I am. I just don't like to use the word illegal alien, the phrase. I'm about to come out about this nationally. I'm coming out, I'm writing a story about my being undocumented. I'm launching a whole campaign about what it means to be an American and the fact that I am an American.

No -- oh, don't clap. No, no, no.

There are 11 million undocumented people in this country. We serve you food at Chipotle, we mow your lawn, we work at your houses. We write your stories. Maybe we're your doctors, maybe we're nurses. We're not who you think we are.

Yes. What were you going to say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe this is a stupid question really. Aren't you afraid of, like, any repercussions?

VARGAS: Oh, god, yes.


VARGAS: Oh, my god, it's terrifying. This is definitely the riskiest thing I have ever done. I'm in this to have some sort of impact.

RON RODRIGUEZ, "DREAMERS": My name is Ron Rodriguez. I'm 20 years old and I came to the United States when I was 6 years old.

FELIPE MARCO, "DREAMERS": My name is Felipe Marcos and I'm 23. And I was born in Rio, Brazil.

VARGAS: In 2010, I started watching YouTube videos of young people called Dreamers, undocumented students fighting for a bill called the Dream Act, which would give them legal status in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Dream Walkers are spending today in Albany on their five-month journey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Undocumented students risk arrest and --

VARGAS: They risk deportation by speaking up and coming out. In some cases, they risk their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should be eradicated whatever means it takes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We speak English.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When do we want it?


VARGAS: All my life, I have hidden the fact that I was undocumented, terrified of what might happen to me. As I watch these young people, I felt like a coward.

GABY PACHECO, IMMIGRANT: The stuffs that we were doing, the rallies, us standing outside of detention centers wasn't enough. We decided that we were going to do this walk, that we were going to go to the heart of America, and we were going to walk through the south and we wanted to go from city to city, telling our stories.

We didn't know the impact that it was going to create immediately. You know, it was more than anything, this desire to be seen as an American.

GROUP: We are undocumented, unafraid, unapologetic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A major blow for those pushing for immigration reform for younger undocumented immigrants. Today the Senate voted against the Dream Act.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But this is a measure that would have provided a path to citizenship for these young people. It just failed.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Maybe my biggest disappointment was this Dream Act vote. You know, I get letters from kids all across the country, even though I feel American, I am an American, the law doesn't recognize me as an American. And I'm at risk of deportation. And it is heartbreaking. That can't be who we are.

VARGAS: My silence was no longer bearable. I couldn't sit on the sidelines anymore. I had to do something. I had to join the fight.

I gathered three close friends, all media and political strategists, to develop a plan. and could find That was (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So can we write the mission statement?

VARGAS: On our first meeting, we formed a campaign called Define American.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To heighten awareness and increase understanding of the plight of undocumented immigrants and secure a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

VARGAS: We would launch the campaign with an essay in the "New York Times" in which I revealed my status as an undocumented immigrant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And after we come out, we should arrange a meeting on the Hill, maybe with staffers, maybe with the senators themselves.

VARGAS: I mean, the story has to come out first.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Jose was just a normal undocumented -- I mean, clearly he's normal, but if he didn't have access to some of these individuals, what would that process be like, just from, you know, the papers that would need to be filled out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the thing. There's no -- there's nothing to do until you get picked up.


VARGAS: Isn't that just amazing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- path that he can take and say I have been undocumented this entire time, I'm ready to fix this and I'm going to start the process by --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what reform would look like. That's -- when we talk about reform, comprehensively, that's what it would be, giving people a mechanism by which they can come forward.

VARGAS: This can't just be about me. Like if for somebody then, for some magical reason it's like oh, you know, what's the -- I don't want to be in that position where I am taken care of and then other people aren't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the good news is, I don't think you're going to be lucky enough.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's fine and we'll cross that bridge --

VARGAS: When we get there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- when we come to it.

VARGAS: I have written hundreds of articles throughout my career, but this was different. This was personal.

Can you imagine all my fake documents are going to be for everybody to see?

Lawyers told me it was legal suicide. I could never be employed once I revealed my status. Worse I could get deported.

This is what we call the truth. This is my mom.

Relatives were worried. I was exposing a family secret and I was exposing them.

The essay was published in the "New York Times" magazine. They called it "Outlaw." I wanted to write the article not only for myself, but for countless others who couldn't write it.

Being undocumented means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. It means being separated from family. It's been almost 18 years since I have seen my mother.

I'm done running. I'm exhausted. I don't want that life anymore.


ANNOUNCER: This is ABC World News with Diane Sawyer.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: We want you to meet one of the most successful young men in this country, stepping out of the shadows to tell you a secret.

DAN HARRIS, ABC NEWS: For Jose Antonio Vargas it's been a brilliant career in journalism.

All through this, you're carrying a huge secret.

VARGAS: There wasn't a moment that I wasn't thinking about it.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": You are an illegal alien.

VARGAS: No, I'm an undocumented --

COLBERT: You are illegal. You're not even illegal alien. You are what we in the American world call an illegal.

VARGAS: Well, actually --

COLBERT: You're -- no, no. You are an illegal.

VARGAS: But wait, no, actually, this is --

COLBERT: I think I broke a law just having you in my studio.

VARGAS: No, this is --

First, he's not an undocumented immigrant. He's an illegal alien, a law breaker. There he is, INS, now go get him. Undocumented immigrant is to illegal alien as undocumented pharmacist is to a drug dealer.

By the way, this is the progressive site.


So we'll see what happens when we get to the conservative ones.

LOU DOBBS, FBN HOST: Our next guest disclosed that he is an illegal immigrant in the "New York Times."

VARGAS: The one thing I want to make sure that I say this, because, you know, I've been -- I have grown up watching you. I have, I have. I just want you to think of all the kids sitting in classrooms across America every year, 65,000 undocumented people graduate from high school. I remember sitting in my classroom thinking, in Mountain View where I grew up, whenever somebody referred to me as illegal --

DOBBS: Yes. Well, were you?

VARGAS: I am -- I am a human being.

DOBBS: Yes. Do you want to be called a human being?

VARGAS: Well, I want to be called a human being and if --


VARGAS: Undocumented immigrant, unauthorized. Unauthorized.

DOBBS: Excuse me.

VARGAS: I mean, words --

DOBBS: Help me out. Help me out.

VARGAS: Words matter in that regard, sir.

DOBBS: Words do matter. VARGAS: Yes, sir.

DOBBS: And do you know what, if you can't accept the reality that you're illegal and if --

VARGAS: That I'm here without authorization. Yes.

DOBBS: Excuse me. Correct. If you can't accept that, there's no way to move forward.

VARGAS: I would love to figure out how you and I in a conversation, right, this is how we define American, to have a conversation where we can find a solution, where we can meet halfway. Where we find --

DOBBS: We're not going to meet halfway.


VARGAS: Yes, we are.

DOBBS: Let me explain something. We're not going to meet halfway. That isn't going to happen. This is not a negotiation. We are a nation of laws. We are a nation of sovereign borders. We are a compassionate and welcoming nation, and where we're going to meet will be at that frontier of American values that you want to embrace. You want to be American, right?

VARGAS: But I do embrace, I do embrace them.

DOBBS: So there's no compromise. Be an American. Embrace America and everything we stand for, and leave the bull wherever that shadow was that you were once in. You are going to enjoy it out in the bright light. It's a great country. Don't you think?

VARGAS: It's a beautiful country.

DOBBS: Jose, thanks for being here.

VARGAS: Thank you for having me.

So it's been a few weeks and I haven't gotten deported. The only thing that's happened so far since coming out is my driver's license got revoked, which is kind of a big deal because it's my only form of government-issued I.D. so thankfully the Philippine embassy here in New York gave me a Filipino passport so this is a -- this is a passport that I can use as a form of I.D.

The problem is, there is no -- there is no visa in the passport which means that once I show this to the TSA people at the airport, as ID, if they see that there's no visa in it, they can actually call Border Patrol and they can I guess detain me. So I guess we'll just see if that happens.

Why is it that when we talk about immigration in this country, we always frame it as a problem and not as a solution.

Immigration is not just a Latino issue, this is not just about Mexicans and the border.

Not everybody who is undocumented is Mexican. A million of the 11 million undocumented people in this country are actually from Asia. About 800,000 from South America, 300,000 actually from Europe, undocumented French, Polish, Irish, German people.

In 2010, undocumented people like me actually paid $11.2 billion in taxes.

It's about citizenship. It's what we are as a country and who we are as a country and what our future is going to be, not just economically but culturally. So when we talk about this combustible, controversial polarizing issue that is immigration, are we even on the same page? I don't think we are.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I would like to take a moment to introduce our esteemed guest this evening. He was born in the Philippines and emigrated to the United States as a child. He has since become a very successful journalist and has begun his campaign, Define American, that seeks to elevate the immigration conversation.

We are pleased and honored to welcome Mr. Jose Antonio Vargas.

VARGAS: I want to be up front about who I am and who I am not. I'm not a leader. I'm not an organizer. That's not what I do. I spent more than a decade of my life as a journalist. I am also, as many of you know, one of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country.

Immigration is stories, so here's my story. I'm in America because of the sacrifices of my family. My lolo and my lola, my grandparents legally emigrated from the Philippines to the U.S. and arrived in Silicon Valley in the mid 1980s. My grandfather decided that he was going to save money to get his only grandson, that was me, to come to America.

This is the house that I grew up. When I arrived from the Philippines here in 1983, I was 12 so this was my home. This is my home and guess what, it hasn't changed one bit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told you I could make some spaghetti but you said you don't want any.

VARGAS: Don't worry about it, Lola.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought he was going to help me cook, but he's always in front of that computer.

VARGAS: My lola can tell you the weather in Manila. She can't tell you the weather in San Francisco, an hour away. My memory of her going to the Philippines was like looking like a donia, that's what we would call it. A donia. Like a rich woman. She used to send these bags of Kisses and Dial soap and Planters peanut and Spam was a big deal. Spam. I just remembered our lives being so dependent on the allowance that

would come from lolo and lola.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband and I came to America in 1984. We were petitioned in 1972 by my sister-in-law. We sacrificed a lot for the sake of our children. We support my daughter. To this day. We make huge sacrifices. Our bodies don't rest. But I don't regret coming here. Our lives were much harder in the Philippines.

VARGAS: I arrived here on August 3rd, 1993 at the Los Angeles International Airport. I remember asking if we were in the wrong country because I saw the wrong people. When I thought of America, I pictured "Baywatch." I thought of Michael Jackson. One of the things I remember watching in the Philippines was the interview between Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jackson. I soon found out that America isn't just Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey and "Baywatch."

When I got here, I thought it was going to be like the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air." I imagined that we would have this like mansion, you know, where like money is just like everywhere, and there's Spam everywhere. I didn't know that Lola was a food server. I didn't know that my grandfather was a security guard. I don't think Lolo made more than $10 an hour his whole life. I just assumed that they were really wealthy.

You know, there's a saying in the Philippines called (speaking in foreign language) which means you just hold on to the knife, and they basically just held on and so once I realized how hard it was to send money every month, that it wasn't just something that you just pick off a tree and you just send, I think the way I thought about my mother changed.

AIDA ABAGA RIVERA, JOSE'S AUNT: When Jose was little he would always ask me, "Why doesn't my mother work?" I told him, "Opportunities in the Philippines is very, very rare." Still, don't lose your respect for her just because she's not able to work.

VARGAS: I bought this for Lola.


VARGAS: A long time ago, like two years ago. Isn't that amazing?


VARGAS: Lola, look, I wear your watch. It's not even working. There's no batteries. But I only wear because you give it gave it to me. Isn't that nice?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can you use it without battery?

VARGAS: I know. It's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not working.

VARGAS: I have clock in my phone. Let's go, Lola. We've got to go. We're fine.

Lola gave me my grandfather's watch when he died. Lolo was the first father figure I ever had. He was a man's man, really macho. He owned guns and had an NRA sticker on his car. When he arrived in the 1980s, he embraced all things American. He became a Reagan Republican and even changed his name from Teofilo to Ted, after Ted Danson from the TV show "Cheers."

He over-enunciated his words to show you that he spoke very good English. His favorite song was Frank Sinatra's "My Way." He was the kind of person who found a yes when it was a no.

For me, my biggest insecurity coming to America was the way I spoke because my accent was really thick. I would go to the library and be there for like seven hours and just like get lost. It was like a museum. That's when I found "Anne of Green Gables."

I copied the way she would talk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fishing for lake trout.


VARGAS: There was something about the fact that here she was, she arrived at like Green Gables in Avonlea and she got dropped off in the house of this older guy and the older woman that kind of felt like my Lolo and my Lola and she was an orphan.

As a kid, I would be listening to like Salt N' Pepa and then I started picking up Sondheim CDs. I wanted to just eat America as fast and as much as I could. I wrote letters to mama telling her about my new life. I wanted to make her proud. I wanted to make her happy. I couldn't wait for her to join me in America. I didn't understand what was taking her so long.

In the eighth grade, I won a spelling bee. The winning word was indefatigable. And I remember calling mama and saying I won the spelling bee. She didn't really know what that was. I think at that point, I realized we were living in two different worlds.

My best memory of middle school was learning the national anthem for the first time. I thought it said, "Oh, Jose, can you see." Can you imagine? I'm like standing there going like this, like oh, my god, like, I just got here and my name is in the national anthem.


And it was a few years after that when I was 16 that I found out that this flag that I had been pledging allegiance to actually didn't belong to me. I went to the DMV like any 16-year-old. I didn't tell my grandparents, I just went. I showed the woman in the booth my green card and my school I.D. She flipped the green card around twice and she looks at me and she says this is fake, don't come back here again.

My grandfather was actually in the garage cutting coupons and I remember dropping my bike and going to him and saying, I just put the card in front of him and the first thing he said is, what are you doing showing that to people? First thing. The second thing, you're not supposed to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know about the plan. (INAUDIBLE). . It was already in motion when he finally told me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their goals in life were very simple. They didn't expect that Jose has such abilities. They thought he'd get a meager job, and send a little money to his mom in the Philippines. That's it.

VARGAS: I was 16 at this point. While other kids were dreaming about their future, I had no idea what the future held for me. I also found out mama was not coming to America. At that moment, I realized I was all alone. I couldn't tell my friends. I didn't trust my family. I felt that the people who were supposed to take care of me didn't take care of me.

I was so angry with my family that I didn't want to be around them. School became my second home.

PAT HYLAND, VARGAS' HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: You know, there are so many kids at the high school, 1800 at one point, and Jose was just one of those ones that kind of -- it didn't matter where you panned your vision, he managed to be in it somehow. And it was in the choir, he was in the plays, he was just around all the time. And he was oftentimes there when most kids had gone home.

I was walking down one of the hallways in the campus and Jose said, can I talk to you for a minute? And OK, I've heard a lot of things, what's the matter? And well, I don't have papers or I'm undocumented, I have forgotten exactly how he said it. For me it was like OK, we can make this work. You know, it shouldn't stop you from doing things. We'll figure it out, because I didn't understand at the time the magnitude of what he was divulging.

This is huge.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: A new illegal immigration law that's said to be the toughest in the nation is on the books in Alabama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The law will allow officials to check the immigration status of students in public schools and give the police new powers to determine whether someone is in the country illegally.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: It goes beyond the legal issue. In part what happens next to the 4 percent Latinos in Alabama and to the rest of Alabama's immigrants depends on whether or not this starts being treated in Alabama as not just a demographics issue but as a civil rights issue.

VARGAS: So can you tell me a little bit about how this impacted you personally? Like do you know people who are undocumented? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do. I do know some people who are undocumented,

and I know people who are documented, and it created a level of fear for them, where, you know, Thomas Jefferson said you should never fear your government, the government should fear you, where this produces --



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This sounds like garbage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you agree with it --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you agree with the immigration law?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do. Get the -- out of here. That's what I agree with. Yes. Bye-bye. Bye-bye. Get your papers or get out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got your papers?

VARGAS: What was that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got your papers?

VARGAS: What if I told you I didn't?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, then you need to get your ass home then. That's what I say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would be my response.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we're not going nowhere. I'm chilling. You shut up. Shut your face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't embarrass me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you took the steps necessary to go to the United States --

VARGAS: There's no steps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a couple steps.

VARGAS: Like what? There's no steps, man. My mom wanted to give me I guess a better life. I was 12. So she sent me to live with her parents in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. So you lived with them?

VARGAS: Yes, I lived with them. Then I found out I was illegal and then I'm like I better speak English well or else they're going to think I'm illegal. I'm going to work my ass off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So basically --

VARGAS: I've been paying my taxes since I was 18. Been paying my taxes since I was 18.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good, good, that's great.

VARGAS: That's good, man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. The thing is, though, you kind of -- you came over and you became a productive member of society. All right? That's what you did, right?

VARGAS: Everybody wants to be, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody does. Everybody does.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you got some like -- when you got hoards of people coming over here, they're staying 10 deep in an apartment and they're -- you know, I'm a contractor. I'm a blue collar guy. I build houses. Know what I'm saying? When you got somebody will put a roof on a house for $10, you got another one going to do it for about $20 or $30.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I own 32 acres here.

VARGAS: And are you born and raised here in Alabama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I was born here and raised in Alabama. I don't farm on the scale that I did at one time, for the simple reason that I'm getting older. Nickname of my Latino worker. It's a friendship and he works with me also. I'd rather say he works with me than for me.

VARGAS: Yes. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I go to Paco's house, his three children come hug me just like my grandkids come hug me. His little son, the youngest one. I have accidentally erased the others. But Latinos are scared. If they are here illegally, they're scared. If they're here legally, they've got family members that they're scared for. But the idea that if I've got Paco in a vehicle with me, then I'm liable also and I can be arrested, well, that's telling me who my friends -- the state of Alabama are telling me who my friends can be.

I'm a conservative and I'm a hardcore Republican but I don't agree with them on this. I think you've got an immigration problem but this is no way of solving it.

VARGAS: After I found out I was undocumented, life got more complicated. During my U.S. history class, when I was a junior, we watched this documentary called "The Times of Harvey Milk."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're white, non-gay, very wealthy establishment has to deal with me.

VARGAS: I also knew that I was gay and I couldn't be in the closet about two things at once, and I had to get out of one of them. And this was easier, so I raised my hand and I -- Mr. Farrell called on me and I was like blubbering for, like, a minute, and then blah, blah, blah, blah, I'm gay. And then I ran out.


The bell rang and then my ex-girlfriend, Patricia, found out that it happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lolo's plan was for Jose to marry an American woman. But Jose said, I'm not going to get married because I'm gay. That's why Lolo got angry. He was very disappointed. They ended up having a huge fight, and Jose moved out of the house.

VARGAS: Coming out to Lolo and to Lola was almost like -- was almost like asserting myself and saying that this is who I am. I had no control over that part, but I have control over this part.

RICH FISCHER, JOSE'S HIGH SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: I believe it's the end of his sophomore year, Pat Hyland, she contacted me and said, you know, I got this young guy I think really could use -- could use a mentor. Right? I knew very little about Jose in that first year that I mentored him. He knew everything about me.

He would simply interview people and, you know, you felt like almost every time you were meeting with him, he was interviewing you. There was no question that Jose became part of our family.

HYLAND: He was sort of my adopted son.

MARY MOORE, RICH'S ASSISTANT: I feel like a mother figure toward him.

GAIL WADE GELFAND, FRIEND: He calls me his Jewish mom and I give him advice freely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not his mom but I'm one of his many moms.

HYLAND: Bought him a computer, bought him his first suit, how do you tie a tie.

MOORE: Family dinners and Christmases.

FISCHER: Thanksgiving and we took him on vacation one summer. I've never met his grandparents during high school. Made me curious about how did this happen. I just knew that his mother had sent him here. In spite of the fact that he -- hadn't been in the country for more than about four years at that time, he had developed a passionate interest in journalism. And so he was writing for the school newspaper.

VARGAS: When I was in my English class, and Mrs. Dore (ph), my teacher said I was asking too many annoying questions and I should do this thing called journalism. So she sent me to a journalism camp. I found out that when you write something, you have this thing called a byline which means that your name's on it, by Jose Antonio Vargas.

I remember showing this to my lola, and she's like what are you doing? You're supposed to be hiding. In Tagalog, we refer to undocumented people as TNT, tago and tago, which means hiding and hiding. You're not supposed to be in the front of a newspaper. But to me, this was my salvation. I thought I could write my way into America. That was my plan.

The first time I actually lied on a form, I was in a conference room by myself, I think it was the third floor of the "Chronicle" and it was very clear in the form that it asked you, are you legally able to work in the United States. And I was thinking so what happens when you check the box. It says that it's perjury, that you couldn't lie, so I actually remember having a conversation with myself like, why don't I just earn what being a citizen is without asking anybody, I never asked Pat, Rich or anybody. I just checked the boxes.

It wasn't my grandfather who lied at this point, it was me who was lying. I was continuing it. I was able to get jobs and I was able to lie my way into getting jobs because of two pieces of documents. This was the first one, my grandfather bought it for me. This is the photocopied Social Security card that I gave the "Mountain View Voice," the "San Francisco Chronicle," the "Philadelphia Daily News," the "Washington Post," the "New Yorker," the "Huffington Post," I think the Pulitzer Committee and also the White House.

PETER PERL, JOSE'S MENTOR, WASHINGTON POST EDITOR: I first met Jose when he was a summer intern. He clearly was gifted and at the same time, he was neurotic about whether he really was pleasing people and initially I attributed it just to the kind of worries that a lot of young people have as young journalists, but over time, it became clear to me that this was more than just your average insecurity.

Jose said that he really needed to talk and we walked for a few blocks to a park near the "Post" and he started to unfold his story. I was speechless at first. I couldn't believe that he actually had managed to have had a number of jobs at other news organizations and had to pull it off as long and as many locations as he had. I had to make a decision right on the spot what do I do with this information and I pretty quickly made the decision that his future was more important than the risks that I was going to take by remaining silent.

VARGAS: I thought he was going to the HR department and say Jose, like, you've got to get out of here. Instead he said, don't tell anybody else. We're in this together.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MITT ROMNEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's nothing wrong with America that needs transform thing. I want to restore America. I want to turn around America.


ROMNEY: Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe there's immigrants here illegally that are honest, they're trying to work, they're doing right things. There are those people out there. Do you have a plan that could assist or help them in their need rather than just rounding everybody up and taking them carte blanche which I think is just as wrong as amnesty? So --

ROMNEY: Yes. My view is people who have come here illegally should not be treated with favoritism in becoming permanent residents or citizens of the United States relative to those who have waited in line patiently in their home countries. So that's the principle.


ROMNEY: That's the principle. And for those who've come here illegally, go back home and get in line with everybody else. And if they get in line and they apply to become a citizen or get a green card they'll be treated like everybody else.

VARGAS: I'm sorry.

ROMNEY: They start at the back of the line, not the front of the line. That in the view is the course that we're going to have to take. Thank you.

VARGAS: I'm Jose. Nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a brother, Jose?

VARGAS: No, I do not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you in line?

VARGAS: No. But, sir, there is no line. I was brought here when I was 12. I didn't know, I didn't have papers until I was 16. My grandparents who are American citizens didn't tell me. So I've been here.


VARGAS: I've been paying taxes since I was 18. I just want to be able, as you said, to get legal, to get in the back of a line somewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I think Romney made a point.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want the highly intelligent immigrants here.

VARGAS: Here. There is no way for you to get in the process if you're here and undocumented.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go to Mexico. It would be --

VARGAS: Well, I'm Filipino.


VARGAS: The Philippines. Yes.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you become legal?

VARGAS: Because there's no way, sir.


VARGAS: I used to work at the "Washington Post." I won a Pulitzer Prize at the "Washington Post." And there's no way for somebody like me to get legal. And this has been my home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a daughter-in-law who came here from Britain.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a scientist, researcher.

VARGAS: As a researcher. Yes.


VARGAS: Has she got papers now?



VARGAS: That's great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's been here 10 years.

VARGAS: Yes. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she was about to be exported.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she didn't have a green card.

VARGAS: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would think with the credentials --

VARGAS: No, no, ma'am. There's no -- I mean, believe me. I wouldn't be here if --


VARGAS: There's no way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our daughter-in-law is credentialed.

VARGAS: Yes. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what did it. That's what did it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got Senator Grassley involved.

VARGAS: I tried it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you contacted Grassley?

VARGAS: Well, I came -- you know, I came out as undocumented six months ago so --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go to the senator's office.

VARGAS: We talked to Senator Durbin. And this is not something that can just happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. But we've been through this.

VARGAS: Yes. No, I have been undocumented since I was 12. There are thousands of other stories like mine. And again, we're here. We want to be tax-paying citizens. We are tax-paying people. What do we do with us? This is what I want to talk about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you haven't talked to Grassley yet.

VARGAS: I'm not due -- I'm not protesting. I'm not -- no. I'm not -- yes, so I'm going to stay. I'm not causing any ruckus. I'm not -- I'm simply asking a question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a man who owns the business. He's asked you to leave. So let's walk toward the door.

VARGAS: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please. Thank you.

VARGAS: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Walk -- I'll talk as we walk. That's fine.

VARGAS: You're a police officer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm a police officer. VARGAS: OK. I'm Jose Vargas. Nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a door right are over here.

VARGAS: Where is it? Right over that way. That was a good question.


VARGAS: You're welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens when I throw you out?

VARGAS: You're basically throwing me out. It's a private business, you said.


VARGAS: Yes. Are you arresting me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, no. I'm just asking you to leave the property.

VARGAS: OK. You're not arresting me? OK.


VARGAS: Yes. By the way, I'm curious, so what happens when somebody in Iowa, like, you know, if you discover somebody as a cop that somebody is an undocumented person. Do you do anything or?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure, we do. We identify the people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then we contact INS or Homeland Security.



VARGAS: Are you going to do that?


VARGAS: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just going to ask you to --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave your car and leave the property. And I appreciate your cooperation and peacefulness.

VARGAS: Thank you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to leave the property, OK? VARGAS: Yes. All right, yes. Thank you.

I have become a walking uncomfortable conversation. I get asked questions like why don't you just make yourself legal? And I think it's really important that we actually go through an application process to become a citizen so that you understand where the problem lies, right? So here is a worksheet from are the Web site of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Right? It asks questions like, number one, I am at least 18 years old. Yes.

Number two, I am a permanent resident of the United States and I have been issued a permanent resident card. No. So I can't even make it past line two.

To get a green card there are many ways. One of them is the family way. But since I am not a spouse of a U.S. citizen or an unmarried child of a U.S. citizen and I am not a parent of a U.S. citizen, I don't fit. So that's the really long answer as to why don't I just make myself legal.

If you think America's tax code is complicated, you should see America's immigration code. Who gets to come to America depends on your family members already here, your education and skills and definitely your wealth.

Take my mother. There are two ways she could possibly come here. Mama could become a legal resident. My grandmother applied for her, but the waiting list for family member coming the from countries like Mexico and the Philippines is decades long.

So Mama waits. Mama could visit me. She applied for a tourist visa. But since she doesn't have money or even a job, she couldn't prove that she wouldn't just stay in America once she got here. So she was denied.

My whole life, my mother and I have been separated by a process I cannot make sense of. As I travel around the country, immigration officials were not contacting me.

In 2011, the year I came out as undocumented, the United States government deported more than 400,000 immigrants, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, while Congress -- especially Republicans -- called for increased border security.

All told, President Obama has deported about 2 million immigrants, more than any president.


GROUP (from captions): We rise and fall together!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a very special guest with us today. His name is Jose Antonio Vargas.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's also a DREAMer. He knows what it's like to be afraid, to be separated from family and who understands our pain because he is one of us.

VARGAS: When you said undocumented and afraid I was like, I'm scared. I don't know why you're so unafraid.


VARGAS: I'm on Facebook, on YouTube. I'm on Twitter following the Arab Spring. And I realized there is like a Dream Spring happening right in front of me and I'm a part of it.


VARGAS: And so my apology is for coming in too late. In some ways I'm trying to make up for that, to make sure that you understand that we are definitely in this together. And as you all know, we have so much more work to do.

So I spent two months writing a really long-assed story on why I haven't gotten deported. The photo editor said, all right, we are going to put a photo of you on the cover of "Time."

I said to the photo editor, hey, can we have 30 more people on the cover?

He was like, where are you going to find them?



VARGAS: Guess who my first phone call was, was Gabby Pacheco (ph).

Gabby, we need 30 people in New York City in less than five days.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an undocumented immigrant from Germany.







VARGAS: Is there something happening tomorrow morning that I need to know about?

Is the White House announcing something tomorrow morning?

We don't know.

Gabby and I, you know, she made it sound like the White House tomorrow is going to announce some kind of categorical deferred action.




FRANK SHARRY, IMMIGRATION ADVOCATE: Well, we have heard that there might be something and then the -- and then that was it. And then nothing.

VARGAS: You know, I have Fabiana and Gabby and random DREAMers from California texting me, telling me that something is happening tomorrow morning.

SHARRY: That's what we hear.

VARGAS: What do you mean what you're hearing? What does that mean, Frank?

SHARRY: The good news is that at 9:30 tomorrow it will announced that DREAMers, as defined by the 2010 bill that passed the House of Representatives, will be able to apply for deferred action, which is protection against deportation and work permits. Probably more than a million people will get status.

The bad news is that the people who are going to be eligible have to be 29 or under.




Are you OK?

VARGAS: Yes. I'm OK. I'm good. I'm OK. I sent you a text, my love.

What's next for you? I'm so happy for you.

She doesn't know the age limit. She doesn't know I don't qualify.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning Secretary Napolitano announced new actions my administration will take to mend our nation's immigration policy and to make it more fair, more efficient and more just, specifically for certain young people sometimes called DREAMers.

It makes no sense to expel talented young people, who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans. They have been raised as Americans, understand themselves to be part of this country.

Well, today we are improving it again. Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.

Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: But you have to be under 30. And you're 31.

VARGAS: Yes. I'm 30 -- I actually -- today, I have to say, today is probably the day that I feel old.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): Just like the DREAMers have a dream, we have a dream, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): To pass immigration reform not just for them but for everyone, for all families and to stop deportations and the unjust separation of families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): I love this country and I give thanks for everything it's given me. But we're tired of living in fear. And now it's time to say, "Enough!"

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): All of us here and many more not presentare united by the same thing. We left many behind in our countries. But we decided to leave everything to give our kids a better life.

I would like to look in the faces of Congress and the president. I would ask them, "What do you see when you look into your children's eyes? It's the same thing that we see in our children."




VARGAS: I don't know how to explain not seeing my mother for 20 years. I don't know how to do that. All I know is I have been running away from her. A few years ago she asked to be listed as my mom on Facebook. And I didn't want to do it. I didn't want people to know that I have a mother because they would ask questions.

Do you miss her? Why don't you go see her?

I can't go back to the Philippines. There is no guarantee I will be allowed to return to America. And Mama cannot come to America. Like many immigrants, I send money to my family. So I send her an allowance and that's it. Our relationship is purely transactional. When she calls, I don't pick up the phone.

To me, this is a homecoming. So it's really, really good to be here at home, to be in the place where I grew up, you know, less than a mile from here on Farley Street. When people ask me, how are you surviving now, a large part of that is because of the very people in this room. I'm going to ask them to stand up. Here it goes.



VARGAS: (INAUDIBLE) drove me around, introduced me to Starbucks. She bought me my first laptop and she was one of the first people that found out that I was undocumented.

Rich and Sherry. So are Rich was my superintendent. And they have been surrogate parents all these years.

Rich has been like the dad I never really had.

Mary and her daughter, Daisy. We graduated from the same class at Mountain View. And the first time she met me she said, OK, let's get married and get you papers.