Vargas, undocumented immigrants launch new campaign

Ryan Macasero
Vargas, undocumented immigrants launch new campaign


Vargas and the other applicants are not qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

MANILA, Philippines – “We are asking the administration, how inclusive are you going to be?” Define American founder and Filipino American immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas told The New York Times. He added, “Should any of these cases be left behind? I think they should not.”

A press conference on Wednesday, July 20, at the National Press Club in Washington DC announced the legal application for deferred action on deportation by 11 undocumented immigrants . Among them was Vargas himself. The event also coincided with the launch of #1in11Million, a new social media campaign.

They asked US President Barack Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to “consider administrative relief to all individuals who are integral members of our evolving community.” 

Applicants included: Erica Aldape, 24; Maria Guadalupe Arreola, 55; Felipe Jesus Diosdado, 35; Maria del Rosario Duarte Villanueva, 54; Michaela Graham, 52; Noemi Romero, 23; Eduardo Sanmiego, 22; Jose Antonio Vargas, 33; Yestel Velasquez, 38; Aly Wane, 37; and Jong-Min you, 34.

There are two fronts on the immigration debate now: One that involves the estimated 11.5 million undocumented individuals living in the US already, and the other which involves at least 40,000 unaccompanied minors who recently crossed into the US border illegally from Central America and are being detained.

Vargas – a Pulitzer Prize-winning Filipino American journalist – was briefly detained himself in McAllen, Texas, by US border patrol agents for traveling without proper documents, but was released soon after. He was there to document the plight of the unaccompanied minors for Politico Magazine.

In a cover letter addressed to Secretary Johnson, the petitioners – who hail from Asia, Latin America and Europe, among other regions – said: 

“Like pilgrims who arrived centuries before, some of us came here by choice, others by necessity, be it social, economic, or personal. Out of desperation and borne out of sacrifice, many of us were sent here by our families. Then and now, we came across oceans, valleys, deserts, and rivers. Then and now, those of us who did not die on that journey want a better life. Over the past decades, we have been working, worshipping in churches, going to school, and contributing to the communities we call home. We love, fight for, and pledge allegiance to an America whose flag does not recognize us.”

They are all asking for at least a 4-year deferral. Vargas and the rest of the applicants are not qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which was a memorandum issued by the Obama administration in 2012 and implemented by the Department of Homeland Security. 

While DACA does not legalize an individual’s status or provide a path to citizenship, it directs authorities to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” or simply delay the deportation of individuals who meet the criteria. 

The #1of11Million social media campaign by Define American seeks to crowd source videos, short essays and photos of undocumented people living in the US. The hashtag represents individuals who are a part of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. 

The organization said in a press statement, “Define American’s media and culture campaign focuses on the power of a story to transcend politics and talk about immigration, identity and citizenship in the US.” The campaign is being done in partnership with the National Immigration Law Center. For more information on the campaign, visit Define American–

See related stories
Rappler Profiles: A Man Apart
Questions on identity, belonging in ‘Documented’
#Documented: Rappler Hangout with Jose Antonio Vargas
Detention a ‘risk’ faced by undocumented US migrants – Vargas
Pulitzer Prize-winning Fil-Am journalist freed after being held at the US border 

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Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at