Pulitzer winner Vargas on TIME cover

by Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN News North America bureau

Posted at Jun 15 2012 02:07 AM | Updated as of Jun 15 2012 06:31 PM

WASHINGTON D.C., USA - Pulitzer Prize-winning Filipino journalist Jose Antonio Vargas is at the center of Time Magazine's cover story on immigration that hits newsstands all across America tomorrow.

Vargas, who in 2011 outed himself as an illegal immigrant, shared the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting while writing about that year’s election campaign for the Washington Post.

He was brought by relatives in the United States in 1993 when he was only 12 year old and did not discover he was undocumented until 4 years later. He kept his status a secret until last year.

He has since become a tireless advocate for immigration reforms, especially the DREAM Act that aims to help young immigrants like him who have grown up, gone to college or served in the military to get the opportunity to legally stay in the US.

The Time Magazine cover, which is carried by both its US and international editions, shows Vargas surrounded by 35 other undocumented immigrants from at least 15 countries, including Nigeria, Germany and Israel. The title reads “We are Americans*” with the asterisk stating "Just not legally."

Vargas, in an email sent to ABS-CBN News, said he helped assemble the group – including Brooklyn resident Roy Naim, an Orthodox Jew who was born in Israel and brought to New York at age 3.

The 10-page spread is based partly on Vargas’ essay that can be accessed in full through Time Magazine's paywall. A 4-minute video will also be available simultaneously with the magazine’s circulation tomorrow.

Immigration issues still have to really come up center during this campaign cycle. President Obama, whose 2008 election victory got a big boost from Latino and Asian American voters, has renewed his promise for immigration reforms. But frustration is growing as minorities see the President’s difficulty to sway Congress to move on those reforms, including the DREAM Act.

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney does not appear to have clear policies on addressing the need for immigration reforms.

He supports self-deportations and has appeased the most conservative elements of the GOP, prompting some like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to suggest Romney help cool down the Republican rhetoric on immigrations.

Vargas says immigration has become a “3rd rail issue” in Washington DC because it deals with race and class and has become more controversial than the Obama healthcare law.

But problems will fester and only worsen for as long as the nation's leaders refuse or are unable to tackle immigration reforms, activists warn.