Thursday, June 23, 2011

“A Different Kind of Reality”

Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, tells his story as his life as an undocumented immigrant.

It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.

I’ve lived in places and had jobs where I took it as a matter of fact that some of the people I worked with or knew socially were undocumented. (By the way, not all of them had names that sounded “foreign” or had brown skin. People come here and overstay their visa or get fake papers from countries such as Canada and Europe, too.)

A couple of things come to mind. First, Mr. Vargas’s story is impressive, but I think what is more to the point is that his story is not unique; there are probably thousands of men, women, and children who can tell the same story. And second, speaking as someone who knows a little bit about having to hide something about himself for fear of retribution, I have a small sense of understanding of what his life has been like, and I admire him greatly for telling us about it.