Jose Antonio Vargas: Oh, com­e­dy. I was laugh­ing my ass off back there. Comedy is so impor­tant. If I did­n’t laugh about my own cir­cum­stance I don’t know where I would be. It’s real­ly nice to be with all of you. Especially, kind of the word defi­ance.” I feel like the past six years for me has been all about defiance.

Defiance of the United States gov­ern­ment, who espe­cial­ly in the past six months have been deport­ing and detain­ing peo­ple in record num­bers. Three months ago ICE, the Immigration [and] Customs Enforcement report­ed that they had deport­ed and arrest­ed 42,000 ille­gals” in three months. That was the lan­guage that Immigration and Customs Enforcement use. That’s a 60% increase from the same time last year. 

Defiance against my own lawyers. Especially after the elec­tion told me to stop fly­ing around the coun­try and just stay in the great state of California, dri­ving around from San Francisco to LA. They said, No more get­ting on planes.” But in the past six years of doing the work that I do, I’ve been walk­ing around like a walk­ing uncom­fort­able con­ver­sa­tion, trav­el­ing all across this coun­try. At Define American we’ve done more than 850 events in forty-eight states, includ­ing about 200 Republican Tea Party con­ser­v­a­tive meet­ings. And vis­it­ed more than 300 col­lege cam­pus­es. I was a polit­i­cal reporter at The Washington Post, and after doing all that trav­el­ing, the moment Trump announced his run for President I told all my polit­i­cal reporter friends, Trump is gonna win this thing.” And they told me I was crazy. 

So against the advice of all these lawyers, I’m still trav­el­ing around. I’m still defy­ing.” And my exis­tence in this coun­try in many ways is an act of defi­ance. I have to say it gets the trolls real­ly real­ly pissed off. Actually just two days ago, this troll who always gets at me every day says, Clock is tick­ing and your stay is get­ting short­er by the day.”

And I tried to kind of calm myself down. And I just looked at the cal­en­dar and remind­ed myself that I’ve been liv­ing this coun­try for twenty-three years, eleven months, and four­teen days. I’ve been in this coun­try for that long. I don’t want to use the word stuck.” But I’ve been stuck in this coun­try for twenty-three years, eleven months, and four­teen days. I haven’t been able to leave because if I leave they won’t allow me to come back. And my mom, who has been in the Philippines since she sent me here, she and I haven’t seen each oth­er for almost twenty-four years next month.

So just to give you a lit­tle bit of back­ground, this is where I come from. That’s me in the Philippines, in the provinces where I grew up where there was no indoor plumb­ing. My grand­par­ents in this pic­ture immi­grat­ed to the United States legal­ly in the ear­ly 1980s because of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. I don’t know if you know what that is. That to me is the biggest lega­cy of the Kennedy fam­i­ly. If it was­n’t for that Act the coun­try would­n’t look as Asian and as Latino as it does now. That’s why the coun­try looks the way that it does. 

So this is my grand­par­ents in the provinces of the Philippines. They got here and they tried to fig­ure out how to basi­cal­ly get their grand­son, their only grand­son, to America. And because immi­gra­tion law is real­ly com­pli­cat­ed, it’s not close enough of a relationship. 

So they could­n’t get me here legal­ly. So what they did is some­thing that they should not have done. But they did. They found me this fake green card, to come to America when I was 12. Landed in Mountain View, California before Google got there. Before LinkedIn got there. 1993 is when I got there. I thought that this paper was fine. This is what I showed peo­ple. It says res­i­dent alien” in it.

I did­n’t know that it was fake until I got to the DMV to try to get a dri­ver’s license. And the woman at the DMV said, This is fake.” And the first instinct, the first thing I said to the woman was, I’m not Mexican.” Because grow­ing up in California, all you ever heard about was when­ev­er some­body said ille­gal this, ille­gal that: Mexicans. And maybe I thought she thought I was a Mexican because my name was Jose Antonio Vargas, I was going to explain to her Spanish colo­nial­ism, all of that. And she said, No no no. This green card is fake. Don’t come back here again.”

Confronted my grand­fa­ther and he said, Yes, it’s fake.” I guess his plan was to get me here ille­gal­ly then mar­ry a woman, like Sandra Bullock in The Proposal, and poof! I have cit­i­zen­ship. The com­pli­ca­tion was around the same time I found out this was fake was around the time I found that I was also gay. Because of AOL chat rooms. Do you know what those are? AOL chat rooms?

So that’s how I found out I was gay. And I was­n’t going to lie about two things at once. And so I defied my own fam­i­ly. And you know how I did it? This thing called jour­nal­ism. Mrs. Dewar, my English teacher, said I asked too many annoy­ing ques­tions and I should do a thing called jour­nal­ism. Didn’t know what that was. But what I did know was when you’re a jour­nal­ist you get this thing called a byline. So it says by Jose Antonio Vargas.” 

So I fig­ured if I can’t be here because I don’t have the right papers…my name is on the paper. Doesn’t that mean I exist? And I fig­ured hey, as long as I keep doing this; get a job at The Washington Post or The New York Times; write for The New Yorker, because peo­ple think that’s a cool thing to do; win some sort of a prize, like a Pulitzer or Pyulitzer—I nev­er knew how to pro­nounce it, what­ev­er; and be a polit­i­cal reporter, because peo­ple think that’s a good thing to do. Right?

So I did all of that. The only rea­son I was able to do that—this is like every­body’s night­mare, your dri­ver’s license blown up—was because of this. The Washington Post offered me an intern­ship. One of my top papers on my list. And they said, But you have to have a dri­ver’s license to come.” I had­n’t drove after the DMV inci­dent. So I researched, like any good reporter, at the Mountain View Public Library and found out that there were two states at the time giv­ing licens­es with no require­ments for social secu­ri­ty num­bers. And one of them was the great state of Oregon. So I con­vinced a friend to dri­ve me to Oregon, teach me how to par­al­lel park, and poof I got the license. Well…you should­n’t be clap­ping about that, but. 

So this was issued June 4th 2003, ten days before my sum­mer intern­ship at The Washington Post start­ed. As you can see it expired on February 3rd, 2011, which hap­pened to be the exact date of my thir­ti­eth birth­day. I fig­ured I had eight years to do every­thing I can to be suc­cess­ful.” Maybe by then they’ll pass a DREAM Act or immi­gra­tion reform or some­thing would hap­pen but you know, just keep writ­ing, keep doing, keep doing all of this.

But every­thing on my list, The Washington Post, the Pulitzer, even writ­ing for The New Yorker—the last sto­ry I did before I out­ed myself as undoc­u­ment­ed was a pro­file of Mark Zuckerberg in The New Yorker. So I had done all of those things and noth­ing had hap­pened. And they were real­ly only two choic­es. Like any good reporter, I spoke to twenty-seven immi­gra­tion lawyers, all of whom said— I told them, Hey, my dead­line’s com­ing up. What do I do?”

Well, I would sug­gest you leave. Because you’re a writer. You can just write a book, sell a lot of books, go back to the Philippines, see your mom.”

And the more I thought about that the more I’m think­ing wait a sec­ond. Like, I firm­ly believe that when you find pur­pose you find grat­i­tude. And I’m very very grate­ful for this coun­try. And every­thing that it’s allowed me to do, regard­less of the cir­cum­stances. Then I did some­thing that twenty-seven lawyers told me not to do. 

Isn’t that the most hor­ri­ble pho­to you’ve ever seen? So in The New York Times, a 4,000 word essay admit­ting to every­thing I did just to work, sur­vive, pay tax­es, and social secu­ri­ty. My lawyer said, The moment you pub­lish in The New York Times that you broke the law and you’ve com­mit­ted fraud, we can’t save you.” No extra­or­di­nary abil­i­ty visa like Milo can get you. No investor’s visa can help you. Not even mar­ry­ing a guy—because now same-sex mar­riage is legal, that can’t save you. The moment you do this, it’s over.

But I firm­ly believe that when you find grat­i­tude, you find pur­pose, and that’s why I did this. But the goal of this is mine is just one sto­ry, right. There are eleven mil­lion of us in this coun­try who are here ille­gal­ly. And how we define American in an era that is under siege, in an era in which there are forty-three mil­lion immi­grants in this coun­try— I don’t know if you know that. There are forty-three mil­lion immi­grants in this country—the high­est per­cent­age we’ve had since the Ellis Island era. Out of the forty-three mil­lion, eleven mil­lion are here ille­gal­ly with­out papers, like me.

So I’m Filipino. We’re like the Italians of Asia. We have big-ass fam­i­lies. So out of thirty-six fam­i­ly mem­bers I’m the only one who’s here ille­gal­ly. I’m the only one out of thirty-six. It’s called a mixed-status fam­i­ly. There’s mil­lions of fam­i­lies like us all across this country. 

So how do we human­ize this issue? A big part of it is we have a cam­paign called Words Matter. I am very sad to report that we’re still liv­ing in a time when The New York Times and The Washington Post and NPR and estab­lished news orga­ni­za­tions that I used to write for myself still refer to peo­ple as ille­gal. Even though that’s actu­al­ly fac­tu­al­ly incorrect.

I don’t know how this hap­pened that we have allowed the lan­guage of Donald Trump. It’s not an acci­dent that Donald Trump picked immi­gra­tion as the cen­tral cam­paign issue. But for The New York Times and The Washington Post and NPR to still use that lan­guage to me is jour­nal­is­ti­cal­ly irre­spon­si­ble. I’m proud that the Words Matter cam­paign actu­al­ly encour­aged the Associated Press to drop the use of the word ille­gal in refer­ring to immi­grants in this country. 

We have a real­ly impor­tant cam­paign, which to me is very impor­tant as a jour­nal­ist, the Facts Matter cam­paign. If you go to our web site defineam​er​i​can​.com, I real­ly encour­age you to down­load and print this. It’s a great uncom­fort­able con­ver­sa­tion doc­u­ment. This lists six facts that you should know before you open your mouth and say any­thing about immi­gra­tion. I’m proud to say that I gave it per­son­al­ly to Tucker Carlson live on tele­vi­sion. I don’t think he read it. 

But this is what the facts of this issue are. From the fact that to be in this coun­try ille­gal­ly is actu­al­ly a civ­il offense and not a crim­i­nal one. Let me repeat: to be in this coun­try legal­ly is a civ­il offense and not a crim­i­nal one. So call­ing peo­ple ille­gal is fac­tu­al­ly incorrect.

I don’t know about you, I don’t know if you know, that undoc­u­ment­ed work­ers like us have paid bil­lions of dol­lars in tax­es and social secu­ri­ty. I recent­ly was meet­ing with the top edi­tor at The New York Times and hand­ed him this doc­u­ment. And I said, Hey, did you know that we’ve actu­al­ly con­tributed $100 bil­lion into the Social Security fund in the past decade?” I myself, per­son­al­ly have paid about $130,000, because I get that let­ter from the Social Security peo­ple. And I called them and I won­dered, Wait a sec­ond, so as a ille­gal alien work­er,’ which is what y’all call me, do I get any of this back?” No. We don’t. How many times have you heard that fig­ure, by the way? That undoc­u­ment­ed work­ers have paid $100 bil­lion into the fund. 

Now, there is absolute­ly no study that says that undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants are more prone to com­mit crimes. We spend a lot of our time avoid­ing cops. So why we’d be more prone to actu­al­ly com­mit more crime is a mys­tery to me. Yet, we have spread the lie so much on undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants that there’s actu­al­ly an office with­in the Administration called VOICE, the Victims of Immigration [Crime Engagement], mean­ing that if an undoc­u­ment­ed per­son com­mits a crime, you as a neigh­bor can get to call VOICE and report them. 

How have we spread these lies? And for me, the num­ber one ques­tion I get asked— Bill Maher just asked me a cou­ple of months ago before I went on his show, Jose, why can’t you just get legal?” I’m a masochist. This is so much more fun. People actu­al­ly—jour­nal­ists them­selves, think­ing peo­ple. I don’t care, Republican, con­ser­v­a­tive. I don’t care what your politic— They have no idea that there is no process for peo­ple like us to legal­ize our­selves.” Such process does not exist. And it’s not a one-size-fits-all process. 

So these are the facts that we should know about immi­gra­tion before we talk about it. Unfortunately, what I’ve learned in the past six years of trav­el­ing this coun­try like a crazy per­son is that Clay Shirky—the great Clay Shirky—tweeted at me a few months ago and said, Jose, you don’t bring facts to a cul­ture war, man.” Let me repeat: you don’t bring facts to a cul­ture war. I can’t tell you how many con­ver­sa­tions I’ve had in Wisconsin, Ohio, Nebraska, Alabama, of people—mostly white working—class people—who feel that what was theirs is not their any­more. And why are they speak­ing Spanish at Walmart? Why are they tak­ing the jobs? Why are they even here? Why are they even here?

The real­i­ty is we have been so busy call­ing peo­ple names, obsess­ing over bor­ders and walls, and spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion that we haven’t even asked hard ques­tions like why do peo­ple move? What does US for­eign pol­i­cy and US trade agree­ments have to do with migra­tion pat­terns? Remember when those chil­dren start­ed walk­ing from Central America to here, and CBS News and a lot of orga­ni­za­tions called them ille­gal immi­grant” chil­dren instead of call­ing them the refugees that they are? What did we do to Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala so that their coun­tries got so vio­lent that they have to come here? Who start­ed the drug war? What did NAFTA do not only to the United States but to Mexicans, right?

And look, I under­stand that this is a very sen­si­tive top­ic. Two years ago I did an event at Wilmington, North Carolina—it was actu­al­ly a Tea Party event. And this man, after I said that there are four mil­lion Filipinos in the United States— There are four mil­lion Filipinos in the US. The third largest immi­grant group. Two mil­lion Filipinos in the state of California alone. He goes, Well, why are you guys here?

And all I could say polite­ly is, Sir, we are here because you were there. That’s why we’re here.” Remember the Spanish-American war? Remember when you took the Philippines and it became a pro­tec­torate like Puerto Rico? Now, don’t get me wrong. We’re here because of the American Dream, right? We’re here because it’s a bet­ter life. We want some­thing bet­ter for our chil­dren. The same rea­son the Irish and the Italians and the Germans did.

But why is it that when white peo­ple move you call it man­i­fest des­tiny? You call it white man’s bur­den. It’s coura­geous. It’s nec­es­sary. When peo­ple of col­or move, what’s the ques­tion? Is it legal? Is it a crime? I found it real­ly real­ly inter­est­ing that my iPhone has more migrant rights than I do as a human being. This could be man­u­fac­tured in China, deliv­ered to Cupertino, and then to New York where I bought it. This thing can trav­el to more places than me and my moth­er can. And as tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tors keep build­ing things to open up, right, and con­nect the world, can we actu­al­ly start think­ing about about human beings and the fact that there’s noth­ing more nat­ur­al than the human right to move? That to me is the big-ass question.

And we’re so busy obsess­ing over walls and bor­ders with­out even facts to do with it. What if I told you that the fastest-growing undoc­u­ment­ed pop­u­la­tion in this coun­try are actu­al­ly Asian immi­grants? One out of sev­en Asian per­sons in this coun­try is here ille­gal­ly. One out of sev­en. But we’re so busy talk­ing about Mexico and the wall. We don’t even know that. There’s about six­teen thou­sand undoc­u­ment­ed Irish peo­ple, one of whom actu­al­ly just got deport­ed from this town, Boston, John Cunningham. I got­ta tell you, just all the undoc­u­ment­ed white peo­ple that I’ve met at air­ports and cafés, if I just count­ed them, it’s way more than eleven mil­lion peo­ple. But they just fly under the radar. We don’t even talk about undoc­u­ment­ed black peo­ple. Although they actu­al­ly get more detained and deport­ed, in num­bers and per­cent­age, than undoc­u­ment­ed Latinos or Asian peo­ple do.

So these are the facts, right. And for me, since we are talk­ing about legal­i­ty, I think it’s real­ly impor­tant to remem­ber that legal­i­ty’s a con­struct of pow­er. Lynching, seg­re­ga­tion, vio­lent­ly tak­ing indige­nous land, many more atroc­i­ties, all of these were legal, right.

Did you know that in 1790, that was the first time we as a coun­try had a nat­u­ral­iza­tion act? And the only peo­ple who could become cit­i­zens of America were free white peo­ple of good moral char­ac­ter. Did you know that it was­n’t until 1924 that we that we actu­al­ly gave Native Americans cit­i­zen­ship rights? Let me repeat: we did not give Native Americans cit­i­zen­ship rights until 1924.

The real­i­ty is migra­tion was nev­er about legal­i­ty. It was always about pow­er. And here’s what’s real­ly inter­est­ing. There are 244 mil­lion migrants in the world. Two hun­dred and forty-four mil­lion migrants in the world—that’s the most ever in the his­to­ry of this world, accord­ing to the United Nations. And here’s what’s inter­est­ing about it. The major­i­ty of us are mov­ing into coun­tries that pre­vi­ous­ly col­o­nized or impe­ri­al­ized us. You might call that a glob­al migra­tion cri­sis? I call it a nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion of history.

Now, why am I here? Why haven’t I self-deported? I’m here because of Mrs. Denny. She was my high school choir teacher at Mountain View high school. She was the first adult I ever told that I was here ille­gal­ly because she want­ed the choir to go to Japan for a Spring tour. And said, Mrs. Denny, I can’t go. I don’t have the right passport.” 

Oh no no no, Jose. We’ll get you the right passport.”

No, Mrs. Denny. I don’t have the right passport.”

Then she got it. She did­n’t tell anybody—not the Principal, not even her hus­band. And the next day she told the whole class we were going to go to Hawaii instead. This woman…

Still from Documented, CNN Films

Peter Perl, he was my edi­tor at The Washington Post. He was actu­al­ly the first cowork­er that I told. Because you know, it was one thing to be undoc­u­ment­ed at the San Francisco Chronicle, it was a whole oth­er thing to be undoc­u­ment­ed in The Washington Post two blocks from the White House. I thought I had the word ille­gal tat­tooed on my fore­head so hey. I thought Peter Perl, he always bought me Starbucks, I fig­ured I could trust him.

Took him for a walk and I said every­thing. The fake dri­ver’s license, the fake Social Security num­ber, every­thing. And then he said two things. One, You make so much more sense now.” Because appar­ent­ly I was always walk­ing around like I was on dead­line or some­thing. The sec­ond thing he said, which sur­prised me to this day, he said, Jose, don’t tell any­body else. Just keep going.”

So when I was on Hillary Clinton’s cam­paign plane in 2008, fol­low­ing her around in Ohio… When I had to cov­er Sarah Palin in Indiana… When I end­ed up win­ning a part of this Pulitzer and I’m won­der­ing wait a sec­ond. Aren’t they going to know that the Social Security num­ber is fake? When I was asked to cov­er a White House state din­ner for the Japanese Prime Minister, how am I going to get through the White House? Isn’t there like secu­ri­ty pro­to­col? But maybe because I look like this and I talk like this and it had The Washington Post” next to it, nobody said anything. 

I can only imag­ine how many Peter Perls are there all across this coun­try, all across Boston, telling peo­ple like me, engi­neers, elec­tri­cians what­ev­er, to keep going.

And this woman is the biggest woman to me. Marcia Davis, she was my edi­tor at The Washington Post for the longest time. She was the one who told me that before oth­er peo­ple defined what suc­cess was for me, I had to define it for myself.

Now, some peo­ple may say that a green card or a pass­port is suc­cess. Don’t get me wrong, I want them. I actu­al­ly want to go see Mexico—everybody thinks I’m Mexican. But as far as I’m con­cerned, what I’m doing is suc­cess­ful. This is part of my suc­cess. But the real­i­ty is Mrs. Denny, Peter Perl, and Marcia Davis are all across this coun­try. And I don’t real­ly have words to explain to you the fear, the pal­pa­ble fear, that undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants all across this coun­try are fac­ing in this new era. The real­i­ty now, though, is when you have privilege…like I did, right? Like I do. What are you doing to risk it? What are you doing to risk you privilege? 

And we cre­at­ed this video at Define American all about ally­ship. What does it mean to stand up for your undoc­u­ment­ed neigh­bors, class­mates, and coworkers? 

So last­ly, after Trump was elect­ed President, my build­ing man­ag­er in Los Angeles where I was liv­ing, in the apart­ment I was liv­ing, said, Hey, it might be a good idea for you to move. Because if ICE showed up we can’t real­ly pro­tect you.” My lawyers then said it might not be a good idea to have a per­ma­nent address in case they issue a war­rant of arrests. Because I got arrest­ed in Texas three years ago. I got detained for eight hours and I got released. But the war­rant could be issued at anytime. 

So I actu­al­ly moved out of my apart­ment and put every­thing in stor­age. So I’m liv­ing with friends who have a spare bed­room. Which is awe­some. But, get­ting detained and deport­ed? I can han­dle that. I have lawyers. I have a sys­tem in place. There’s four mil­lion Filipinos in this coun­try, includ­ing Manny Pacquiao, who’s in the Philippines but who comes here a lot. So I think I’ll be okay. 

But what I can­not do is stay silent. What I can­not do is stay in one place. What I can­not do is allow a pres­i­den­cy to scare me for my own coun­try. So I am proud to say that I’ve been liv­ing in this coun­try as of today twenty-three years, eleven months, and six­teen days. I’m an American, I’m just wait­ing for my own coun­try to rec­og­nize it. Thank you.

Jose Antonio Vargas: Okay, ques­tions! We have five minutes.

Nobody has a ques­tion? Is there any­one here who wants me deport­ed? Let’s have a con­ver­sa­tion about it.

Audience 1: Okay, what about DACA

Vargas: Okay, how many peo­ple here know what DACA is, can you raise your hand? Oh…awesome that you know. DACA is called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It was an exec­u­tive order that President Obama signed in 2012. Right now there’s 880,000 young peo­ple in this coun­try who are here ille­gal­ly but grew up here, who have to pay about $500 to the gov­ern­ment so that the gov­ern­ment does­n’t deport them for two years. And the gov­ern­ment gives them a work per­mit, a dri­ver’s license, and to not wor­ry about any­body knock­ing on the door.

Can you imag­ine if you had to pay the gov­ern­ment $500 to not deport you? So 880,000 young peo­ple applied for this, and Trump has said that he would get rid of it. He still has not. We don’t know what’s going to hap­pen to it. But it’s going to expire. Judges, espe­cial­ly the great state of Texas— By the way, Texas has 1.8 mil­lion undoc­u­ment­ed peo­ple in it. Is there a sub­way sys­tem in Texas that we don’t know about? How do you think 1.8 mil­lion undoc­u­ment­ed Texans get around? They dri­ve with­out a license. And then what hap­pens? They get pulled over. Then what hap­pens? They get detained. Then what hap­pens? They get deported.

I have to tell you, though, Nico. When we asked that ques­tion of DACA here, the fact that you hear about immi­gra­tion every day in the news, and yet we know so lit­tle about facts and process of this issue, to me is a jour­nal­is­tic irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty of mon­strous pro­por­tions. I don’t real­ly have even the lan­guage for that because as a jour­nal­ist myself I’m offend­ed. But this is why we need more infor­ma­tion out there. We need to fig­ure out how to actu­al­ly strate­gi­cal­ly get that information.

Right now Define American is train­ing a few undoc­u­ment­ed peo­ple to get on con­ser­v­a­tive talk radio. Train them to go on Fox News, con­ser­v­a­tive talk radio, so we don’t cede that ground. So please, pay atten­tion to DACA. Call the sen­a­tors that you want to call. We don’t advo­cate for any­thing polit­i­cal, but that’s your decision.

Audience 2: What was your moti­va­tion for going to so many Tea Party rallies?

Vargas: You know, I think it’s the jour­nal­ist in me. I think Sarah Palin inspired me when I cov­ered her in 2008. You know, you can’t hate some­thing you don’t know. We did a show for MTV three years ago called White People. You might have heard of it. It was actu­al­ly our way to kind of talk about race and immi­gra­tion. And what was stun­ning to me after we did the film, MTV com­mis­sioned a study that said— I don’t know if you know this. Three fourths—the typ­i­cal white American lives in a town that is pre­dom­i­nant­ly white. And the aver­age white American’s group of friends is more than 90% white. So if you’re one of those typ­i­cal white Americans, where do you get to know immi­grants? The news media you con­sume, and the tele­vi­sion shows and movies you watch. 

So for me it was real­ly impor­tant to engage peo­ple. I got­ta tell you, for me those are the best con­ver­sa­tions. And they’re as sur­prised when I bring my tax forms with me from H&R Block. I mean, I have paid so much tax­es I should be a Republican. And they’re like, Aren’t you pissed that you keep pay­ing these tax­es but we don’t give you any­thing?” Oh hey, you know, I’m hap­py to be in this coun­try. I’m hap­py. I want to pay tax­es so we can have schools and libraries. I would­n’t know where I would be with­out the Mountain View Public Library. But while we do that, can you at least not talk about us like we’re insects off your backs?

One last ques­tion and then I think I got­ta go.

Audience 3: So, what is your def­i­n­i­tion of suc­cess for Define American and for the rest of your time, which we hope will be very very long here in America. But what would be your successful…

Vargas: You know, what has giv­en me a lot of peace, by the way, is real­iz­ing that this is not just a nation­al issue but it’s a glob­al issue. Even though I haven’t been able to see the world. And I’m 36 years old, so I kin­da do want to go see the world. Thinking about the fact that what we’re a part of is a glob­al move­ment to me is very…I get a lot of peace out of that. I get a lot a peace that cer­tain­ly after the elec­tion I have more news orga­ni­za­tions con­tact­ing us say­ing, Help us do this.” For exam­ple, we’re about have a pret­ty big part­ner­ship to do some­thing on undoc­u­ment­ed black women, which is some­thing you nev­er hear about. 

So what gives me feel­ings of suc­cess are those kinds of things. But I have to say though, for me, the fact that I get to do this, the fact that peo­ple are get­ting detained and deport­ed every­day and look, here I am doing this work. I employ fif­teen peo­ple— What’s your name? 

Audience 3: Tobi. [sp?]

Vargas: So Tobi, you can’t know­ing­ly hire an undoc­u­ment­ed person—although we know that peo­ple do. But, I can hire you. So undoc­u­ment­ed peo­ple can own busi­ness­es and employ peo­ple. I’m a job cre­ator, yo. So I employ like fif­teen peo­ple. And appar­ent­ly I pro­vide real­ly good health insur­ance and ben­e­fits. The same ben­e­fits that I can’t get myself because I’m here with­out papers. So I have to buy my own pri­vate health insurance. 

But it gives me a lot of peace know­ing that what we’re doing is suc­ceed­ing. We just have to real­ly scale it. Thank you so much for this time.

Further Reference

Blog post about White People, with link to clip

Defiance video archive