Jose Antonio Vargas: Discussion and Screening of “Documented” at SJSU



by Laura Posadas

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, self-described undocumented immigrant, and local community member Jose Antonio Vargas screened “Documented”, a documentary that tells his story as an undocumented immigrant living in America this past Monday, March 10, 2014 at San Jose State University.

Vargas’ story is a story that 11 million people living in the nation today can relate to. This was evident when he asked the audience if any attendees were undocumented immigrants themselves and 15 audience members stood up.

“I wanted to make a film that exposes the cost of a broken immigration system and the cost is broken families, and broken lives like mine,” Vargas said.

After the film was shown, several undocumented students were inspired to share their own personal experiences with Vargas and audience members.

“This is the first time I ever cried because of my political situation in the U.S.,” said Engels, a senior majoring in global studies who asked the Spartan Daily, the school’s newspaper covering the event not to use his last name.

Engels was one of the 15 students whom came out as undocumented during the event.

Other students who didn’t share the same story as Vargas were motivated by the film and asked questions about how to help the cause while others used the time to promote the school’s activist group SAHE, Student Advocates for Higher Education to raise awareness.

“I don’t like to talk about this border,” Vargas said. “Has humanity ever built a border that could withstand human will?”

The film focuses on Vargas’ life from his arrival to the U.S to his coming out as an undocumented individual and his struggle with people seeing undocumented people like himself as nothing more than “illegal”.

“When you call me something it says more about you than it does about me,” Vargas said, “I’m not the problem here.” is an organization co-founded by Vargas that aims to remove the term “illegal immigrant” from the news vocabulary as a term to describe an individual without legal status. Vargas’ campaign also encourages people to talk, whatever their background or beliefs maybe and ask how we define what it means to be American and “ask the right questions.

During the event, Vargas was presented with the 2014 William Randolph Hearst Award for Outstanding Journalism Achievement.

“This is the first time in the past two and a half years that I am getting recognized by a journalism department,” Vargas said. “ It means a lot that it’s a journalism department that is very close to where I grew up.”

Professor Bob Rucker, the director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, commended Vargas for embracing and challenging his critical thinking and news writing making him one of the top journalists in America.

“Greatest gift journalism could give me was empathy,” Vargas said.

The event was co-hosted by CreaTV, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Human Relations Department of San Jose State.

For more information on “Documented” here: