Jose Antonio Vargas on immigration and the American Dream


Earlier this autumn, we interviewed 33-year-old journalist, filmmaker and activist Jose Antonio Vargas for the inaugural installment of our new series of digital shorts, Self Evidence. Created by producer Mona Panchal, the idea behind Self Evidence is simple: take important ideas by provocative thinkers and animate those ideas to craft a compelling message about who we are today, and who we want to be in the future.

In this premiere episode, Vargas — best known for his powerful 2011 New York Times Magazine essay about his experiences as an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines — meditates on the immigration issue and what the idea of the American Dream means to him.

“Immigration is at the central core of what this country is,” he told us. “Whether or not it’s the migration of slaves that built America or the migration of pilgrims or the migration of Mexicans and Latin Americans and Asian countries that have remade what America looks like today. When you talk about the lasting symbol or like what the legacy of the American Dream is, what I think about is this freedom to migrate and freedom to move and freedom to dream. And I think that's what's always made America, which has always been a country of countries, unique. That's why figuring out what immigration policy, to us, is more than immigration. It strikes at the heart of why our country keeps evolving the way that it's been evolving. And that's what why we have to get it right.”


"I think the promise of America makes people feel as if America is only theirs. And that there's only so much of it to go around and once you cut up all the slices there's no more slices left," he laughs. “For me, the biggest argument that I have to keep making to people is I'm not taking away a slice of your pie. I'm actually making the whole pie bigger and I'm bringing egg rolls with me. And egg rolls are really good, you know?”

As part of President Obama's executive action announced on Thursday, for the first time in 21 years Vargas will be protected from deportation and will be able to get a work permit.

Executive Producer: Anna Holmes

Producer: Mona Panchal

Motion Graphics: Daisy Millard

Anna Holmes is a writer, editor and failed grade school spy. She is the founder of Jezebel, a columnist for the NYT Sunday Book Review, and the Editor of Fusion's Digital Voices section.

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