Jose Antonio Vargas At Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing On Immigration

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration rights activist and self-declared undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas t
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration rights activist and self-declared undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on comprehensive immigration reform. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Unlike last week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration, the panel of witnesses for Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration included an undocumented immigrant, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.

Vargas, who came out about his undocumented status in an article published June 2011 in The New York Times Magazine, testified Wednesday on the behalf of the 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Jose Antonio Vargas gives voice to undocumented immigrants

He challenged the Senate committee members to present a “fair” and “humane” immigration reform to deal with the undocumented immigrants who, like him, have been living in the country for many years.

“What do you want to do with me?” he asked the committee members. “For all the undocumented immigrants who are actually sitting here at this hearing, for the people watching online and for the 11 million of us, what do you want to do with us?”

In his Senate testimony, Vargas also reminded the committee members that “immigration is not merely about borders” and called for an immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants like him.

“We dream of a path to citizenship so we can actively participate in our American democracy,” he said. “We dream of not being separated from our families and our loved ones regardless of sexual orientation, no matter our skill set.”

Vargas’ testimony comes as immigrant right’s activists are voicing their concerns over the lack of testimonies by undocumented immigrants at these immigration hearings.

They argue that when conversations over immigration reform are taking place, the voice of undocumented immigrants should be included because they are the most affected by the issue.

Ben Monterroso, national executive director for Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, applauded the committee members who invited Vargas to testify on Wednesday. Monterroso said in a statement, ”It’s important that Congress sees the real faces of aspiring citizens who appreciate the opportunities that America provides, and are eager to contribute to society.”

Who are the 11 million undocumented immigrants?

Jose Antonio Vargas also told his personal story in an attempt to demonstrate who are some of the undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. He spoke about how he comes from a Filipino American family of naturalized American citizens.

“I am the only one in my extended family of 25 Americans who is undocumented,” he said. “When you inaccurately call me ‘illegal,’ you’re not only dehumanizing me, you’re offending them. No human being is illegal.”

Vargas is part of the growing number of mixed-status families in the U.S. The Center for American Progress estimates that 16.6 million people currently live in mixed-status families—with at least one unauthorized immigrant—and a third of U.S. citizen children of immigrants live in mixed-status families.

Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and highlighted several characteristics that describe the 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Murguia said most undocumented immigrants are long-term U.S. residents who “work hard, pay taxes and otherwise abide by our laws.” Many of them are the primary breadwinners for U.S. citizen spouses and children. Others came here as children.

“Their lives are inextricably linked with ours,” she added. “The interests of our country are best served by allowing them to come forward, pass a background check, pay taxes, learn English and earn the ability to apply for citizenship just like every other group of immigrants before them.”



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