|Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas called for the passage of the Dream Act in his commencement address at Dream University's mock graduation. Photo from Balitang America
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The most popular undocumented immigrant in the US introduced himself: "My name is Jose Antonio Vargas and I'm an undocumented American."
The Filipino award-winning journalist gave the commencement address for the Dream University’s mock graduation held at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
Vargas said, "It’s time. For me. For you. For your mothers and fathers. Sisters and brothers. For every American citizen who is forced to fill in where the system fails. And for all Americans — everyone who believes that you should be able to earn your way to success in this country with hard work and determination, who believes that every generation should have more opportunity than the one before it. For every one of us who pledges allegiance to the flag. For every one of us who calls America home. It's time."
The graduates call themselves the Deportation Class of 2011.
They are the Jose Vargases from different parts of the country--children of immigrants who were brought to the US when they were minors that ended up undocumented, not of their own fault, they say.
Many of them are under deportation proceedings.
A Dreamer from Texas said, "Two years ago I was pulled over for a broken taillight and as a consequence I'm being deported. I am an American."
Another Dreamer from Michigan said, "I hope that Dream Act passes and Obama stops deportations."
The Dreamers' message to President Obama: Education not deportation.
Vargas said, "We need to elevate the conversation in this country around immigration. We need to challenge the press, the mainstream press in America, Latin press, ethnic press, all kinds of press in the mainstream to make sure this issue is covered and talked about in a bigger and broader way."
And as the conversation becomes louder and wider in scope, more undocumented immigrants are coming out of the shadows. They are pushing for the passage of the Dream Act, the proposed law that would allow undocumented students to legalize their status.
But coming out in the open means risking deportation.
Even Vargas himself said he may not be spared from getting deported. He said he is mentally ready for the consequences of his actions.
"I think everyone here faces a risk, all of us. I personally am taking a risk but in the same way that everybody here is taking a risk, so it’s not just me who’s taking the risk," said Vargas.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-Il), whom the Dreamers call The Father of Dream Act, promised them that he will do everything he can to stay their deportations. He also told them that he will meet with the President to bring to his attention these deportation issues faced by the Dreamers.
Durbin said, "I come here today with a sense of humility, asking your forgiveness because for 10 years I have not finished the job I started. But I’m not going to quit. I'm going to make sure Dream Act becomes a law."
With Jose Vargas' compelling story combined with the story of thousands of other Jose Vargases in the US, Dream Act advocates said the future looks a little brighter for the undocumented youth.
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