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Home Sections Literature and Fourth Estate Filipino Pulitzer-Prize Winning Journalist Outs Self as TNT and Gay
Filipino Pulitzer-Prize Winning Journalist Outs Self as TNT and Gay PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Literature and Fourth Estate
Friday, 24 June 2011 18:53

 

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

   

C HICAGO (jLGi) – A Filipino Pulitzer Prize winner, the most hallowed honor in the profession, can no longer keep his double life a secret. Make it triple life.

 

“I’m done running. I’m exhausted. I don’t want that life anymore,” was all that Jose Antonio Vargas, a 30-year-old native of Zambales province in the Philippines can say in his 4,608-word essay, “My Life As An Undocumented Immigrant” that will come out in the June 26, 2011 issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

 

After reaching out to his “former bosses and employers and apologized for misleading them – a mix of humiliation and liberation coming with each disclose” and who gave him permission to use their names, Vargas decided to “work with a legal counsel to review my options” in outing himself as an undocumented immigrant grant (TNT, Tago Nang Tago in Tagalog). But he admitted, “I don’t know what the consequences will be of telling my story.”

 

Outing himself in U.S. mainstream media is definitely a lawyer’s nightmare as his revelations would limit his lawyer to offer him his legal defenses.

 

Editor’s Note: For a picture of Jose Antonio Vargas and his lawyers, please click on this link, http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=2037760097457&set=a.1109438249991.20017.1047898756&type=1&theater

 

For instance, his grandfather, a naturalized U.S. citizen, provided him a “fake Green Card” and doctored his “Social Security Card” so he can find a job. His grandfather, though, can no longer be prosecuted as he died in 2007.

 

While he could still be prosecuted for obtaining a driver’s license using fictitious address, his former employers may not be sanctioned anymore if it is proven that they hired him without knowing that he is an undocumented immigrant.

 

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION DEPORTED 800K TNTs

 

B ut Mr. Vargas is aware that he could easily be deported as “the Obama administration has deported almost 800,000 people in the last two years” from among the 11-million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

 

He would have been a shoo-in beneficiary of the DREAM Act, co-sponsored by Senators Durbin and Richard Lugar, after it passed the House late last year. But it fell through in the Senate.

 

His case is the second involving a Filipino recently brought into spotlight. Mark Farrales, 31, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University, who was pursuing his doctorate degree at the University of California in San Diego was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents last November in his home in his Reseda, Los Angeles County, California, “for being in the country illegally.”

 

Mr. Farrales has since been released by the ICE and was given a one-year reprieve to legalize his stay. Farrales’ lawyer, Leon Hazany, did not respond when this reporter sought his comment on the Vargas case.

 

Vargas arrived in the U.S. in 1993 when he was 12 using a “fake name and a fake passport” given to him by an “uncle,” who turned out as a “coyote” (human smuggler), after receiving $4,500 from his grandfather (Lolo).

 

His mother tried to obtain a tourist visa after his grandfather withdrew his petition for her. His grandfather made a mistake of listing her as single instead of married because his Lolo did not want his “wandering” father “coming here (U.S.).” “My mother told me later that she figured she would follow me soon. She never did,” Vargas said.

 

ROMULO, FIRST PULITZER PRIZE WINNER

 

U sing the fake passport, his Lolo applied for him a Social Security card. When he received the card, it had “Valid for work with I.N.S. authorization.” They went to a photocopy shop and “covered the “I.N.S. authorization text with a sliver of white tape.” Then, they made photocopies of it so it would look like a “regular, unrestricted Social Security card.”

 

He was able to use the SS card to get odd jobs “to live and survive my own.”

When he attended high school, he was asked to join a group to go to Japan.

 

When he told the school authorities that he could not “get the right passport,” that’s when he broke down that “I’m not (even) supposed to be here.”

 

It was also during that school year when he admitted in a class discussion that he was “gay,” an admission that enraged his Lolo, who wanted him to solve his immigration problem by marrying “an American woman in order to gain a green card.”

 

When he was in college, he applied for internships in several newspapers, including The Washington Post, which offered him a spot, after presenting a driver’s license with a fictitious address.

 

It was in the Post, as part of team that covered the Virginia Tech shootings, that he won a Pulitzer Prize. Because his Lolo died in 2007, it was his Lola, who called him of the announcement. The first thing that she told him, “Anong mangyayari kung malaman ng mga tao?” (What will happen if people find out?) Speechless, Vargas said he “sat down on the toilet and cried.”

 

Now, Vargas is starting a campaign called Define American, where he's spotlighting immigrants' stories.

 

You can read the whole story here, and watch him talk about his experiences in the video below.

 

Vargas is the fifth Filipino to win the Pulitzer. The first was Carlos P. Romulo, who wrote a series predicting the outbreak of World War II. Byron Acohido won it best beat reporting; Alex Tizon for best investigative reporting; and Cheryl Diaz Meyer for news photography category in 2004 for her work in Iraq. # # #

 

Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at: (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

 



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