Immigrations True Colors
“Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen” by Jose Antonio Vargas
Jose Antonio Vargas, the winner of the Pulitzer prize, published his memoir on September 18, 2018, called “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.” His memoir revolved around the difficulties he and many other undocumented citizens face in the United States. Vargas tells his own experiences as he dealt with acculturation, identity crisis, emotional distress ,and so on as he immigrated from the Philippines to the United States. Throughout his journey, he discovered his passion for journalism, which was the kickstart to his movement. The movement to promote acceptance of undocumented citizens, to question what truly means to be “legal” or “illegal.” As well as the consequences he endured for hiding and lying about his citizenship status, but ultimately what caused his epiphany of raising awareness of the actual true colors of immigration.
The biggest incident that occurred in Vargas life was the day he immigrated from the Philippines to the United States. Vargas was only twelve when he left, leaving his mother whom were inseparable until that day , August 1, 1993. He realized the irony later on in life stating “ It’s painful to think that the same water that connects us all also divides us, dividing Mama and me” (Vargas, 5). As he then began integrating into the United States, culture shock struck, as
Vargas experienced language barriers, race/culture identity crisis, and the differences between being legal and illegal in the U.S. It was not until the age of 16 that Vargas realized he was an illegal immigrant, which happened as he tried applying for his drivers permit. The lady at the DMV told him his green card was fake, which then caused a spiral of emotions questioning his identity. Vargas confronted his Lolo (Grandpa) and was shocked as he confirmed the green card was fake. “No one was who I thought they were, least of all myself. I was confused. I was angry” (Vargas 34).
After discovering he was an illegal immigrant, Vargas became more cautious and thought his opportunities were now limited in life. Applying for jobs, license, college all required identification and he feared of being caught again. Yet Vargas was blessed in making friends who helped him go to college by developing a scholarship. From there he pursued journalism, which was the gateway to setting himself free. Once a journalist, he decided after writing many stories about others that it was time to write his own. Vargas addressed “I could no longer live with my lies. …Before I could write anymore stories, I had to investigate my life. … I had to write my story” (113). This incident was the kick start of the changes he wanted to see.
The year “Dear Americans: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen” was published, 2018, at the time President Trump was in office. During this time Trump’s administration announced a zero tolerance policy on unauthorized immigration.”.. every migrant …attempting to cross the U.S. border anywhere other than at an official port of entry was to be detained and criminally prosecuted” (Refugees International). Vargas actually experienced being detained and experienced the mistreatment of those who were separated while crossing the border. Vargas was detained while trying to travel and ended up in jail which he described, “…as young as five years old, the youngest no more than twelve. The air reeked of body odor” (Vargas 203).
Majority of immigrants make up a high percentage of the United States population. Therefore, movements and protests are constant to protect them. DACA being one of them, as Vargas stated “With DACA, nearly 850,000 young undocumented Americans could pursue their dreams.”
Though sometimes there is conflict within the community. Currently there has been protests against police brutality, but sadly some take advantage of this movement and ruin its image. Riots have derived from these protests, hurting those who we are trying to protect. Which Vargas experienced as some immigrants were offended by his position. They did not want to be grouped in with those who came here illegally, as some legally entered the U.S. Yet that is the problem with immigration. It is not a simple process many believe it to be, it does not happen overnight. For some the possibility to even apply and to be accepted is rare or never happens. Immigrations true colors are described as constant stress, tears, blood, and overall resilience. Every immigrant came here for a reason, a better life, and everyone deserves a chance to have one.
Refugees International. “The Trump Zero Tolerance Policy: A Cruel Approach with Humane and Viable Alternatives.” Refugees International, Refugees International, 11 Sept. 2019, www.refugeesinternational.org/reports/2018/7/31/trump-zero-tolerance-policy.
Vargas, Jose Antonio. Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen. HarperCollins Publishers, 2018.