North Texas Daily

Jose Antonio Vargas kicks of Distinguished Lecture Series

Jose Antonio Vargas kicks of Distinguished Lecture Series

October 22
02:18 2015

Chelsea Watkins | Staff Writer


Jose Antonio Vargas spoke Wednesday night about immigration rights, identity and race to kick off the Distinguished Lecture Series.

“If we want to get anywhere, we have to get uncomfortable with each other,” Vargas said.

In 2013, Vargas created the film “Documented” to tell the story of his journey as an undocumented immigrant wandering the United States and the challenges that have come with it.

Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and filmmaker, was sent from the Philippines to this country at age 12 to live with his grandparents in California. It wasn’t until he was 16 and applying for his driver’s license that he discovered he was undocumented. In 2011, he penned his status as an undocumented immigrant for “The New York Times Magazine.”

After not being taken into custody after dispelling this information, Vargas became curious as to why no one had come to deport him. He wrote an article about it and even called the Department of Homeland Security himself, but they refused to give him an answer.


Jose Antonio Vargas spoke Wednesday night about immigration rights, identity and race to kick off the Distinguished Lecture Series. Ranjani Groth | Staff Photographer

Throughout the lecture, Vargas heavily used statistics to give factual insight to the undocumented population in the U.S. and dispel the preconceived notions some people have of undocumented citizens.

“Facts are missing from the conversation,” Vargas said.

Vargas challenged political figures like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump on their immigration views and criticized Texas for legally being allowed to deny birth certificates to American children born to some immigrants as of last Friday.

“Why isn’t this a humanitarian crisis?” Vargas said. “Why is this acceptable?”

He also recognized that being an advocate for immigrants’ rights meant that he had to involve himself in issues that face other minority groups, such as women’s rights, LGBT rights and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Vargas’s documentary, “White People,” premiered on MTV in July and was created to spark conversation about race in America.
Vargas asked the audience to raise their hands if they were U.S. citizens.

“I sincerely hope you don’t take it for granted,” he said.

At the end of his session, questions were pulled from Twitter, and audience members were able to ask Vargas questions.

Members of the League of United Latin American Citizens came to hear Vargas speak after becoming familiar with his work a week prior to the lecture.

Gerardo Zermeno, vice president of LULAC, said this was an important issue, and labels should not be used when it comes to the immigration issue.

“There needs to be more of an advocacy,” Zermeno said.

Featured Image: Jose Antonio Vargas spoke Wednesday night during the first Distinguished Lecture Series event of the semester. Ranjani Groth | Staff Photographer

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