“This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like me find ourselves in,” writes America’s most famous undocumented immigrant. “This book is about lying and being forced to lie to get by.”
Faced with poverty and few choices, Jose Antonio Vargas’ mother sent him from the Philippines to Los Angeles to live with his grandparents when he was 12. Vargas had no idea he was undocumented until he applied for a driver’s permit at age 16.
“This is fake,” the DMV employee whispered to him after examining his green card. “Don’t come back here again.”
Vargas found himself in a legal no-man’s land: His passport and green card were fake. He couldn’t go back to the Philippines without potentially getting his legally residing California relatives in trouble for lying. Even with these tremendous barriers, Vargas took advantage of the opportunities he did have. He tirelessly studied, and with the support of friends, made it through college and into the world of journalism. He was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre.
Yet despite years as a productive, law-abiding and taxpaying American resident, Vargas has no way of becoming an American citizen. He cannot access government-funded health care, vote, get financial aid for higher education or get a passport. He is constantly told to “get in line” and become a citizen the right way, even though our byzantine policies provide no road for him to do so. In June 2011, the New York Times Magazine published Vargas’ essay about his life as an undocumented immigrant. Overnight, Vargas became the face of one of the most divisive issues in America today.
Dear America, is a clarion call for humanity in a time of unprecedented focus on the 11 million people living in America without a clear path to citizenship. Vargas writes passionately about the undeniable intersection between race, class and immigration and traces the bitter history of American immigration policy. He speaks on behalf of our neighbors, our colleagues, those undocumented humans we interact with every day—often unknowingly—who are part of our community while always standing on the outside.