Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas

Journalist / Activist / Founder


Define American

Los Angeles, California USA


Once I start being afraid, then I’ve lost whatever power I had.

Videos

By Roadtrip Nation
Now Playing
01:59
Jose Antonio Vargas HighlightInterview Highlight
Now Playing
06:40
InterviewThe Interview
Now Playing
02:26
What Fuels MeWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
02:18
WritingWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
01:27
Journalism and EmpathyWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
01:38
Liberate YourselfWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
00:52
It Seems So PersonalInterview Excerpt
Now Playing
00:49
Claim Your SpaceInterview Excerpt
Now Playing
00:59
ImmigrationInterview Excerpt
Now Playing
01:07
IdentityInterview Excerpt

Milestones

My road in life took a while to figure out.
Immigrated to America from the Philippines at the age of 12; his parents sent him on a plane with a coyote (or, illegal smuggler); to go live with his grandparents in Northern California.
He didn’t realize he was in the country illegally until he attempted to get a driver’s license at age 16 and realized he didn’t have the correct paperwork.
One of his teachers introduced him to journalism and he began interning at a local paper called the Mountain View Voice; after that, he got an entry-level job at the San Francisco Chronicle.
Despite his lack of papers, he managed to get through college at San Francisco State University, majoring in political science and Black Studies.
His contributions to the Washington Post’s coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting won him and his colleagues the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting.
But as he rose through the ranks of the world of journalism, he always felt like he was running from something; he ultimately decided to pen a piece called “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.”
His story was widely covered by national news outlets, as he was one of the most high-profile people ever to publicly come out as an undocumented citizen.
Decided to found Define American—a nonprofit built around sharing immigrant stories—so he could “take immigration out the box people put it in, make it accessible, and make it human.”
Keep following my journey

Education

High School
Bachelor
Political Science and Government, General
San Francisco State University
Bachelor
African-American/Black Studies
San Francisco State University

Career

Journalist / Activist / Founder

I lead a non-profit organization that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration and citizenship in America.

Career Roadmap

Roadmap
My work combines:
My work combines:
Journalism
Non-Profit Organizations
Communicating / Sharing Stories

Day to Day

On a day-to-day basis, I am a journalist. As an activist, I am dedicated to humanizing the struggle of immigrants in the U.S., undocumented immigrants in particular. I see it as my journalistic duty to report the facts about immigration.

Skills & Qualities Beyond School

A huge skill to have as a journalist is empathy. You have to be open and curious about everything and everyone. Improve your writing skills.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for college students

Lead with your heart and listen. Claim your space and know your worth.

Hurdles

The Noise I Shed

From Society in General:

"How dare you?! Get out of here you illegal person you don't belong. "

Challenges I Overcame

First-Generation Immigrant
Racial Discrimination
LGBT