MANILA, Philippines – Rappler talks to Pulitzer Prize winning-journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, immigration lawyer Rio Guerrero and TED Aspire speaker and young undocumented Filipino American Akiko Aspillaga.
The 3 discuss the complicated, everyday reality of being undocumented immigrants in the United States. According to latest reports, there are at least 300,000 Filipinos living in the US without proper documentation.
In a December 2013 White House press briefing, US President Barack Obama told reporters immigration reform is “the biggest thing that I wanted to get done this year.” Despite the US Senate passing the biggest overhaul of immigration reform legislation in July 2013, the US House of Representatives has yet to move on any reform legislation, leaving 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US frustrated. (READ: Obama holds out hope for immigration reform in 2014)
Almost 3 years ago, Jose Antonio Vargas spoke about the situation of immigrant workers through an essay published in the New York Times Magazine titled, “My Life As An Undocumented Immigrant.” The controversial piece fueled debates on immigration reform, a fiercely polarizing issue in the US. Afterwards, he directed and produced the film, Documented, that aired on CNN. (READ: Pinoy films ‘undocumented immigrant’ story)
Still an undocumented worker himself, Vargas was 12 years old when his young mother put him on a flight from Manila in 1993, to be raised by his grandparents in California in hopes of living the American dream. He didn’t know he was undocumented until he tried to obtain a driver’s license at the age of 16. He worked for years as a reporter for major news outlets such as the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Philadelphia Daily News and the Huffington Post without legal authorization to work in the US.
Continue to participate the conversation on Twitter and join communities in the US and the Philippines such as Define American, a non-profit organization which encourages communities to re-think traditional criteria of what it means to be an American; and NextDayBetter, a New York-based organization that “highlights inspiring changemakers, creatives and entrepreneurs from the diaspora focusing on creating a better future.”
Documented premiered nationally on CNN Sunday, June 29.
Watch the discussion below.