HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - An immigration rights activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist talked about his life as an undocumented immigrant on Tuesday night at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Jose Antonio Vargas spoke before a crowd of students and faculty in the Bennett Auditorium on the Hattiesburg campus for USM’s University Forum, which was open to the public.
“I had to make up my mind. Do I stay where I have built my life or do I go?” Vargas said.
This question came after Vargas publicly announced he was not an American citizen.
“So, I wanted to write about immigration outside of the usual conversation of politics, policy, the wall, the border," Vargas said. "I wanted to write about psychologically what it means.”
Vargas is an immigration rights activist, filmmaker and award-winning journalist. He has worked for a variety of media outlets, including the Washington Post where he won a Pulitzer Prize for his work. He talked candidly to a full auditorium about his life as an immigrant in the country illegally and his new book highlighting the journey.
“I was born in the Philippines and my mom sent me to live in this country when I was 12," Vargas said. "When I was 16, I went to get a drivers license and found out when I went to the DMV that my green card was fake. So, that’s how I found out. I have been here illegally since then and that was 1997.”
Vargas has lived in this country for more than 20 years. He has been featured on numerous news outlets telling his story, including the cover of Time Magazine.
“For me, this book is really talking about this issue at a human level," Vargas said. "Not at a Democrat, conservative, liberal perspective. I don’t think we really know what this means from a human perspective and that was my hope in writing the book.”
The University Forum brings nationally recognized policymakers, scientist and scholars to the campus throughout school semesters.
This is the 49th state Vargas has visited telling his story.