My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant

A must-read this morning.

I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.

I’ve tried. Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.

But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. 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.

Really do read it all

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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10 Responses to My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant

  1. kim says:

    Excellent Post. As a college professor at a small school in CO, I am confronted with similar situations for my students. I am so so glad to see someone giving voice to this issue in an intelligent, passionate, realistic manner.

  2. Incredible story.

    No one is illegal.

  3. Natalia says:

    Jesus Christ.

    So someone is brought to the country *as a kid*, not even *knowing* that anything illegal was going on, and they still have to accept a 10-year BAN to reapply for legal status? God bless America!

  4. Anon21 says:

    Very brave thing to do, “coming out” like this. I think he admits to several federal crimes in that article, though, so I am wondering if he’ll be arrested. Your move, DHS–the nation (at least the NYT-reading portion of the nation) is watching.

  5. Emily says:

    Thank you for the link; I’m glad I read that. Our immigration law has become way too harsh, from legal residents getting deported for shoplifting to the ridiculously long waits to legally sponsor family members, to the 10 year ban. It’s my understanding that if his grandparents had managed to get him a tourist visa to visit them, and he came on that rather than with false documents he would not be subject to the 10 year ban but could apply for adjustment of status. Does that make any sense? And under current law it wouldn’t matter if he married a citizen – he’d still be subject to the 10 year ban.

  6. GinnyC says:

    This really is a fantastic article! I hope Jose Antonio Vargas is able to change some minds with it. I’m not sure that it will do anything to help his own status, but maybe some more people will realize why the Dream Act and other immigration reform are absolutely necessary. Also, being gay should never be an obstacle to becoming a U.S. citizen, but unfortunately it still very much is.

  7. Jennifer says:

    I hope he doesn’t go to jail/get deported for this, but fear he will. I guess he wanted to trash his life to live honesty/make a point, but I don’t think I’d have that kind of nerve and willingness to face all of the awful consequences of doing that myself.

  8. Kristen J. says:

    Cried. Lots. Also vomited at some of the comments that are accompanying the coverage.

  9. David says:

    I really hope everything turns out alright for him. Judging from his story, he’s gone through mountains of shit (and worked harder) than most of us natural born U.S. citizens ever will.

  10. Bitter Scribe says:

    I will never believe that anything can be accomplished–any result that could remotely be called good or beneficial to anyone–by picking up an honest, hard-working individual and hurling him back to the Philippines or Mexico or wherever he or she happened to come from however many years ago. I don’t care if this person is a dishwasher or a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

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