WASHINGTON — A former reporter for The Washington Post who shared a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre has written another extraordinary story: his own.
Jose Antonio Vargas, 30, revealed in a 4,300-word article published in The New York Times magazine on Wednesday that he is an illegal immigrant and has been hiding it for nearly 20 years.
He said he was speaking out now in a bid to drum up support for the DREAM Act, a bill which would provide young immigrant students with the possibility of gaining US citizenship.
Vargas, originally from the Philippines, said his mother put him on a plane for the United States in 1993, when he was 12, to live with his grandparents in the San Francisco area.
He said he discovered he was living in the United States illegally when he attempted to get a driving license at the age of 16 and was told by a clerk to go away because his papers were fake.
“I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American,” he said.
“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,” he said. “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,” he said.
Vargas, who left The Washington Post in 2009 and briefly joined The Huffington Post, said he was confessing his immigration status now because he no longer wanted to be “running away from who I am.”
“I’m done running. I’m exhausted. I don’t want that life anymore,” he said.
“I don’t know what the consequences will be of telling my story,” Vargas said, adding that he was seeking legal counsel to review his options.