jose antonio vargas

jose antonio vargas bw

i’m an american, i just don’t have the right papers….

find/follow him:

on wikipedia

his site/story:

jose's site

not legal not leaving

like a walking uncomfortable conversation:


founder of define american:

define american


Our request is simple: Let’s talk.

Our immigration system is broken — and fixing it requires a conversation that’s bigger and more effective than the one that we’ve become accustomed to.


short interview on his documentary – meeting his mom:


nov 2014:


nov 2014:

Depression is not something we often talk about. It’s a very personal, painful yet central part of the undocumented experience–when you’re called “illegal,” when your life is subjected to pieces of papers and unjust laws–that I am just learning to openly speak about.

Every day I struggle with what I share and what I don’t–what I make public and what I choose to keep private because we’re all entitled to privacy.Marc Fisher, a reporter for the Washington Post, my former employer, started working on this profile in July. We spoke about a lot of things, chief among them mental health and the emotional toll that undocumented people go through, including me.

This profile is also a way of saying, “We are not ‘coming out’–we’re just letting you in.”

“I want to be radically transparent in a way that isn’t showboating.”

Before he turned 30, he’d done nearly everything on his list.

“That list was going to be the solution,” Vargas says. “But I did all those things, and it wasn’t better.”

trailer embedded:

“Documented” is a film written and directed by Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented American — one of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. (Apo Anak Productions/Define American)


quote Jose tweeted:

  you’ve got to be taught to hate and fear/you’ve got to be taught from year to year/it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear.

– – –

july 22 2015

What does it mean to be white? MTV’s “White People” is a groundbreaking documentary on race that aims to answer that question from the viewpoint of young white people living in America today. For more information on “White People” and to join the conversation, head to

8 min – the word ghetto wasn’t about where i was from it was about who i am

9 min – white privilege – you kind of get this feeling that things belong to you

white is not a country – josé

12 min – we’ve never had to internalize what white people have done in america… but here you can’t avoid that … it should be all of u.s. history

14 min- the skin color i wear allows me to represent something much bigger than myself (referencing this negatively)

15 min – it wouldn’t feel right to me to use the term (referencing – white – via native american)

17 min – on scholarships for people of color – yet 40% whites more likely to get scholarships – not about whites.. about everybody..

21 min – 21 mill apply… 72% go to white students

23 min – maybe i am wrong… no one likes to feel excluded esp for the color of their skin – josé – you’re not the only person that feels this way

25 min – 3 out of 4 whites say we should be color blind…  4 out of 5 uncomfortable discussing racial issues

Empathy—the cornerstone of my work. #WhitePeople @DefineAmerican @emergingUS @MTV – josé

38 min – it happens with every nationality… immigration ness

39 min – on the need to facilitate a convo – because of all the (exponentiation of) blending

nationality.. human

– –

periscope during documentary

LIVE on #Periscope: When your parents are…. #WhitePeople…

if not ready to accept people as expert of own experience not ready for convo. be ok w/being uncomfortable. -Rachel


interview w/José after showing white people:

10 min – whiteness exists because of a reaction to something else… defining what we are by what we’re not.. ie: what they all could not be.. is not be black.. now the country is beyond black and white.. 70% of all asians are foreign born.. fastest growing

12 min – caller – white (and other categories) is so reductionist, let’s take everyone as individual; jose: i wish we were in this colorblind mode… but, ie: blacks 6 times more likely to be incarcerated et al

15 min – my goal is to bring up the convo..  so is white an american invention… the film was made for mtv – so young white mill’s

17 min – coates on history – there was no – white – came to be only in response to the country with slavery that defined them all as not black

19 min – this country was never white… so what does that do to people of color.. and to white people – who then think they’re the default

21 min – on college scholarships

admitting – i don’t understand the math here.. 40% chance of getting scholarship – when they are 77% of u.s. seems off. i mean if all are individual. but this is a non-helpful point.. 1\ we can do better than college aid  2\ seems we can no longer (if we ever could) label people

31 mi – on – when i/we say white – we don’t mean you.. we mean the system


on James Baldwin..

James Baldwin empowered me to question what people called me (“illegal alien,” “faggot”) and respond w/: “I give you your problem back.”

Original Tweet:


jan 2016

We are trying to figure something out

The undocumented in Flint are not getting bottled water. IDs required. Who’s helping them? Please help them. Someone needs to

Original Tweet:




Are undocumented immigrants asking to “cut in line”? Not so, says @joseiswriting.…

why is there a line..?

americans in general are struggling and they want someone to blame.. trump is saying blame immigrants..

part of trump strategy.. blurring lines of legal/illegal immigration… did we question ie: irish immigration.. diff was.. that all european immigrants got to be white.. asians and latinos are never going to be white..

8 min – isn’t it fascinating that while trump … that obama has deported more than any other pres in history…

10 min – i don’t understand why obama admitted 2 mill people and i’m not one of them..

11 min – people say.. i broke law.. and jumped in front of people.. i don’t want to bump anyone of the line..

what line..


nationality.. human

i provide health ins to employees.. that i can’t get.. give me a line.. give me a process..if you think i should wait 10 yrs to be an american.. i’ll wait.. i mean .. we’re not a priority.. law tells us that everyday..

12 min – what’s the prime.. what laws did my mom actually break.. what did you do to earn your citizenship..

14 min – in this country.. being anti immigrant is acceptable.. may even get you in the white house..

15 min – need to be aware of what the facts are… fasted growing immigration pop: asian not latino.. et al… undocumented workers pay taxes…

16 min – Jose ends


Jose at dml2016 – and convo with Henry Jenkins



relationship goes back 10 yrs…

i did journalism.. because (as undocumented) my name could be on a piece of paper..

my beat was on intersection of internet and politics..

i had checked off all the lists of things you have to do to be successful

around that time i started finding out that undocumented people.. where using fb, twitter, youtube.. to org.. to tell their stories..

[film] – immigration is stories

the very people trump wants to deport.. that legally aren’t supposed to be here are using these techs to tell you who they are… there’s something rich around that..

i started feeling really guilty.. 3 yrs.. watching to videos.. talking to 28 lawyers.. to find out how much trouble i’d be in.. how do i do this and provide space to give people agency.. to tell own story.. so… define american.. largest collection of immigrant stories.. people coming out on platform … filmmakers look at/use some of stories..

can’t change immigration unless talk about culture of immigration..

cultural shift led to political shift..

can’t talk about immigration and not talk about race

in this country.. hs/colleges… rights are things people care about.. how do we make migration part of that

my iphone has more migrant rights than i do.. i’m not talking about open borders i’m just asking questions.. why is it goods/commodities can travel anywhere but people can’t.. what is that about.. why is it when white people travel.. it’s courageous/essential/new frontier.. when poc travel it’s a question of legality/criminality.. how do we change that…

that’s where my work has led me… what borders mean in a digital world..


i’ve spent a lot of my career trying not to talk about race…

was seeing my classmates make choices about race.. we had to figure out early on…

my grandfather arrested mlk.. i keep his badge as my memory of that.. for that reason i stayed out of this very long.. until i figured out.. not talking about race is white privilege

how we respond to a white culture minority..

we don’t live in a post racial society.. we’re seeing the politics…

i came in looking at it thru hpa.. but the dreamers are the ones that took my breath away.. ie: people tweeting as being deported… this is incredible ie’s of risk/activism…

 many americans didn’t think they knew anyone undocumented.. so many in closet… for many.. first time was thru a youtube video..

most sophisticated activism today is what the dreamers are…


only people saying post racial society – where white journalists…

courage takes for you to be transparent.. is much more needed.. now living in time where we really need white people to talk to other white people about what white privilege is .. it’s exhausting for poc to it all

beauty of sm.. for first time really seeing each other.. what this bearing witness means..

daca: 1.5 mill young undoc people gave names/id.. and paid 465 dollars to govt to not get deported for two years..

issue that is most controversial and least known – documentation.. why define american is so important.. deep level of mis perception.. and the media’s role in just accepting frame from trump.. and general silence from american public.. .. hey.. so long as someone’s serving you.. this is america.. aren’t we about cheap labor… for most part.. white people don’t care about this issue.. how do we wake up this consciousness…

one narrative.. how do we disrupt all of these projected onto us and have sm give agency for people to frame their own story..

binary ness


tyranny of the possible – can only deal with today’s battle..

long term change – try to think about next direction.. ie: mlk – i have a dream.. not just survive as african americans.. but what does the future look like..

pop culture provides language for this young generation..

maybe we needed hp to bridge.. with empathy.. bridging capital.. ie: what talking about superman narrative has meant to undocumented youth..

[film] – before can change world.. have to be able to imagine other possibilities..

a nother way.. – all of us imagining .. daily.. as the day.. ongoingly..

macarthur funding us for a couple of years to focus on – civic imagination...

find a way to help people think about nature of change.. we’ve got to break out of the frames..

hey henry – host-life-bits via self-talk as data.. as the day


i can’t really talk about immigration in a vacuum.. connected to women’s rights.. lgbqt.. income ineq… if these are stories i’m finding.. american s going thru same.. you have towns in nc.. that used to be football towns that are now soccer towns… so that has never really figured out b and w thing.. have asian/latino..

emerging us.. vice but better.. video docs.. complimented by essays..

[trailer] – asians fastest growing.. latinos largest minority – we need a new kind of journalism

that’s america to me..

film – white people.. ie: when white people check white.. do they know what that means..  reality.. in next 50 yrs..  deconstructing tropes.. what does it mean to be a good immigrant.. when did term inner city get created..

define american is non profit.. emerging us is for profit..  hard to get investors.. want to know audience.. can’t be everyone.. can’t you just stick to immigration..

i feel i owe it to my privilege.. question about privilege.. what are you doing to risk  your privilege.. this is my thing

what it means for people to define who they are and not just let other people define them..

again.. a nother way.. – self-talk as data – 7 bill people defining/redefining/undefining self.. everyday..


if we don’t change hollywood/news-industry.. not going to make changes needed..


when you get to know us.. you get to know us from white people’s perspective.. so my work lives on how to ask questions…. i think only internet/sm .. able to answer these questions…

so long as we agree.. we’re fine.. but what are we going to do.. when we disagree.. working class white people stories.. are largely untold.. our chance of correcting mistakes thru mainstream media thru digital means.. the opp is ripe.. the question is.. are we going to take full advantage..


the way citizenship connecting to the digital.. ie: citizen journalism.. problematic on half dozen levels.. 1\ i hope all journalists do that.. 2\ phrase citizen limits .. potentially denying someone right of what they do as important right.. 3\ limit by calling it journalism.. lots of important speech occurs online.. talk about contemp issues.. et al.. that is the power of the internet and it doesn’t have to look like journalism to make a diff in the world.


global citizens.. but not of my own country.. i don’t think i need a piece of paper to tell me i’m an american..

[on woman.. who wanted antonio to connect her great grandma’s slave papers.. to papers he can’t get].. this is not about papers/laws.. 

when we talk about citizenship.. discussing it beyond.. don’t talk to me about laws if you’re going to talk to me about justice..

question: what have you all done/doing to earn your citizenship.. only a fair question..

how do we unpack this myth of america being built by immigrants.. leaving out blacks (forced to come here) and native americans..

with obama era.. i think we’ve entered the redefinition do we learn that


we have to connect our ability to envision future with our knowledge of the past.. (show that is doing that..).. need more stories like that as a society


in – white people – 75% of white people believe discriminated.. mostly on college admissions.. they felt best was to be color blind..

i’m talking about systematic structure.. if defensive.. maybe look at self..

we’re doing a sequel focusing on straight white guys..  how much change can they (engulf)

prism.. when you come to america.. you think white..

all i want is my nephews/nieces.. what they can handle..  i’m trying to figure out distribution/conversation.. we are so divided in this country.. only two places change must happen from ground up.. media (stories we tell ourselves) .. and education (what are we teaching our kids)..



shoot.. cut out..

strength of sm – connecting stories together.. if pressure on white people.. let’s do it uniformly across u.s…. moving beyond telling the slave story again and again..


poc – how do we not be too quick to call things racist.. 88% of total pop growth in next (8 yrs?).. going to come from latino/asians..

modest proposal.. white people start thinking .. not center of world.. not norm/standard.. we all are..  you’re all just the minority.. you just took everything..

expanding defn of what majority is..


modern era defined by insularity and porous ness… no counter publics.. no harbors.. no space to formulate public opinion if minority.. that won’t be shared out.. we have to figure out how to have these convos.. how to have sm that allows us to respect each other.. and have that honesty

gershenfeld sel


i’ve started unfriending people who agree with me..  i keep doing this work because i feel this is my contribution and i have a strategy .. if all i’m going to do is talk to people who agree with me.. i don’t think i’m doing my job


have a candidate talking about partitioning off parts of internet.. to limit free speech on internet.. we’ve got to fight to protect net every step of way… many fronts we have to face.. from govt/corp reg that affect our ability to maintain culture online


independence is expensive.. making sure i’m not selling myself out.. i’ve been really careful about what independence means to me

the fact that we know of millions of undocumented students.. but if students come out to teachers.. teachers don’t know what to do.. there isn’t an actual/collective strategy.. i feel teachers are the middle ground..  hearing that govt has failed and teachers have to figure out what to do.. that’s teachers as allies coming out

when you talk about dreamers.. you’re talking about ones that have made conscious choice to keep going.. what about the others.. most dangerous thing about stereotypes is when people believe them..

james baldwin: your crown has been bought and paid for .. all you must do is put it on.. now you can love yourself.. it’s possible.. we are way more than pieces of papers.. laws passed..

can’t give up because our parents didn’t.. my mom didn’t..


Jose Antonio Vargas (@joseiswriting) tweeted at 6:45 AM – 4 Nov 2016 :

Language that insists on uncomfortable truths. Language that confronts and leads to honesty and then reconciliation. Language that unites. (

perhaps that language: idiosyncratic jargon.. that can io dance.. ie: hosted-life-bits via self-talk as data… as the day (aka: not part\ial)


Jose Antonio Vargas (@joseiswriting) tweeted at 5:10 AM – 9 Dec 2016 :

5 years ago today, this photo was taken. I’m not hiding from my country; my country is hiding from me. @DefineAmerican (


dear america