By Luis Vargas, Community Mobilization Intern
Last week, Pulitzer-Price winner Jose Antonio Vargas declared that he is an undocumented immigrant in a New York Times piece, and, as expected, the media has been wondering about whether he will be deported. It’s not so much the scandal that Vargas’ piece has caused in the media that makes the article compelling, but, admirably, because he is the first to come out as an undocumented in such large media platform. His coming out follows in the footsteps of the many in the undocumented youth movement that mobilized around the DREAM Act, and themselves came out of the shadows in regards to their immigration status. But more importantly, his actions show that even individuals can put pressure on the system, even if it can cost you everything.
“I’m done running. I’m exhausted. I don’t want that life anymore,” states Vargas.
Sharing his story was a way to let go of his frustration, but sharing his experiences in this way was also a brave act, a way to put pressure on the immigration system. If Vargas believes that it is possible to create some kind of change in the immigration policies, or to challenge them, then it can be said that to share one’s stories with the public is one way of showing how easily the immigration system is flawed.
Stephanie J. Alvarado from the NLIRH recently made explicit the challenge that Latina women face within the health care system by pointing to the multiple barriers that force women to choose between their health and other expenses. Telling our stories of struggle within the health care system could have a similar impact on advocating for institutional change. How would the public react if they knew what women’s experiences with the health care system were like?
If Vargas’ story brings the attention of policymakers, then why couldn’t the voices and experiences of many undocumented Latina women not also gain attention? This might be a fight with serious risks, but there is also much to be won.
Luis Vargas, Community Mobilization Intern, is supported by the Civil Liberties and Public Policy program