NEW YORK CITY – Award-winning Filipino journalist Jose Antonio Vargas received the “Justice in Action Award” at the annual Lunar New Year Gala in New York on Tuesday night.
The Asian American Legal Defense Fund presents the Justice in Action Awards to exceptional individuals for their outstanding achievements and efforts in advancing social justice.
“I'm honored to even [be] in the same company as Congressman (John) Lewis. He's an icon in the civil rights movement. He's somebody that we read about in high school you know, in my textbooks. To be sitting right next to him is more than surreal and David Henry Hwang, the pre-eminent Asian American dramatist in America,” said Vargas.
Tony-Award winning playwright of M. Butterfly, David Henry Hwang presented the award to Vargas.
“Jose Antonio Vargas is someone who advanced a cause that we all care about, which is immigration reform and he did it in a way that was human, passionate and brave and he really put his own life on the line to do it and that's why he's a hero,” Hwang said.
Other recipients of the awards are Simone Wu for her commitment to advancing diversity in the legal profession and US Congressman John Lewis, an iconic leader of the civil rights movements in the 1960's.
Lewis, one of President Obama's biggest supporters says he believes that a comprehensive immigration will get passed this year.
“We must move very fast when the iron is hot, when there's a great deal of interest and get it done. It's been a long time coming, but it's time for us to have a comprehensive immigration reform and I believe it will happen this year,” he said.
Vargas said the Filipino-American community can do a lot more in speaking up and speaking out to push for the overhaul of the broken US immigration system.
“ABS-CBN just did a documentary on TNT right? Which means tago ng tago, which means hiding and hiding. I think the era of hiding and hiding is over. We have to speak out. We have to insist to be recognized and to be visible and we have to organize, (that's where i'm hoping we can go more),” he said.
What's next for Vargas? He says he is also finishing up with his soon-to-be-released documentary he wrote and has been shooting and directing it for two years now.
“I'm documenting the undocumented community. That's what I'm doing,” he said.