- Jose Antonio Vargas
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and filmmaker. He famously came out of the shadows in 2011 in The New York Times Magazine with his story, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” He is founder and editor of #EmergingUS, founder of Define American, and producer and director of two documentary films, Documented and White People.
Donald Trump repeatedly attacked immigrants during his campaign for president. We get reaction to his victory from Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and filmmaker. He famously came out of the shadows in 2011 in The New York Times Magazine with his story, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” He is founder and editor of #EmergingUS, founder of Define American, and producer and director of two documentary films, “Documented” and “White People.”
AMY GOODMAN: And yet there is a right sweep in Europe, as well. You look, for example, at the Philippines. You look at Duterte, the president there, who’s known as the Philippine Trump, which brings me to Jose Antonio Vargas. You were a reporter for years. You were at The Washington Post. You then came out in a piece in The New York Times Magazine saying you were an undocumented immigrant, something that your employers didn’t know for many years. And now you have set up an organization to help people. Donald Trump started off by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals, and has promised, to this day, to build a wall with Mexico. Your thoughts today?
JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: So that organization, by the way, is called DefineAmerican.com. And when you go there, you’ll find that it actually houses the largest collection of undocumented immigrant stories online. And I have to say, this morning I was looking at it and—because I’m getting all these texts and Facebook messages from undocumented young people who are all worried that DACA, which is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival executive action by the president, is going to get taken away by January. There’s about 750,000 young people who have temporary status right now, who are working, who are in school. And Donald Trump has said that he will take that away.
I wanted to add to what you said, because I think this is really important. In this country in the next 50 years, 88 percent of the total population growth are going to come from mostly Latinos and Asians. So a country that has barely dealt with the black-and-white issue—right?—is now getting more complicated with Latinos and Asians, Muslims and all of these, quote-unquote, “othered,” right? I’ve been traveling, as you know, Amy, now for the past five years doing this work. I have done probably more than 800 events in 48 states and visited more than 300 schools. I made a documentary for MTV called White People. It aired, actually, just a month after Donald Trump announced his presidency. This is not surprising to me. To me, though, I have to say, it’s been infuriating just watching all these, quote-unquote, “experts” and pundits, who I think, by the way, should all lose their jobs, given the fact that they don’t know anything, didn’t know anything, when it comes to this. And we need real reporters now to do the real work in trying to figure out how we got to where we got. That’s the first point.
The second point is this: courage. I think it’s going to take a tremendous amount of courage for people of color, for Muslims, for immigrants, to get up this morning, to go to work, to look at their children and their relatives in the eye and tell them that it’s going to be OK. The first person that I called last night when this happened is my grandmother, who’s 79, who is a U.S. citizen, been here since 1984, who’s crying on the phone thinking that I’m going to get deported to the Philippines, where President Duterte is not necessarily going to be very nice to me, I don’t think, because I can’t be here anymore. Those are the conversations that are happening.
I would also have to say that, given all the travels and the conversations I’ve been doing, I think we are, and have been since the election of Barack Obama, in the middle of a civil war. It’s an internal civil war that is part civil war, part reconstruction. Right? Demographically, this country is no longer going to be white. The state of California alone, 51 percent of all Californians aged 25 and under is Latino. This country is only going to get gayer, blacker, browner, more Asian. Women—white women, black women, Muslim women—will break all barriers there is to break. What’s left is this question of how much change can straight, white men and white people handle. I think last night we saw that it’s not a lot.
AMY GOODMAN: I am reading from the August Asian Journal. It says, “Filipinos everywhere are reacting to Donald Trump’s comments that suggested a ban on immigration from areas with high rates of terrorism, including the Philippines.”