NEW YORK – Jose Antonio Vargas, a Filipino American Journalist who has reported for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Daily News, and The Washington Post, where he was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team in 2011 will be honored by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) with the 2013 Justice in Action Awards at its Annual Awards at its Annual Lunar New Year Gala on February 19 at PIER SIXTY, Chelsea Piers, in New York.
Vargas will be honored together with John Lewis, member of the U.S. House of Representatives (Georgia) and Simone Wu of Choice Hotels International, Inc. The co-emcees for the evening are Juju Chang, Emmy Award-winning correspondent for ABC News Nightline, and Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer at Columbia University.
The AALDEF Justice in Action Awards recognizes exceptional individuals for their outstanding achievements and contributions in advancing justice and equality. Past recipients include the late civil rights icon Fred Korematsu, David Henry Hwang, Fareed Zakaria, BD Wong, Sandra Leung, Harold Koh, Mira Nair, Ivan Fong, Deval Patrick, George Takei, Salman Rushdie, Seymour Hersh, Larry Tu, Charles Ogletree, Jr., Nicholas Kristof, Sheryl Wu Dunn, Javade Chaudhri, Harry Belafonte, Margaret Cho, and Yoko Ono.
Over 800 leaders of the civil rights, legal, business, and arts communities are expected to attend AALDEF’s 2013 Lunar New Year Gala celebrating the Year of the Snake. The Gala begins with a 6 p.m. cocktail reception and silent auction, followed by the Justice in Action Awards ceremony and a banquet dinner.
All proceeds from the Lunar New Year Gala will go directly towards supporting AALDEF’s legal and educational programs in immigrant rights, economic justice for workers, voting rights and civic participation, language access to services, educational equity, housing and environmental justice, and the elimination of hate violence, police misconduct, and human trafficking.
In 2011, Vargas publicly revealed himself to be an undocumented immigrant and has since been a leading advocate for a U.S. immigration system that promotes human rights for all. He is the founder of Define American, a project aimed at increasing awareness about the DREAM Act, which would help undocumented youth have a path to citizenship available to them through education or service in the military. “Jose Antonio Vargas has played a crucial role in changing the discourse on immigration reform,” said Fung. “We honor his courage in speaking on behalf of the rights of immigrants everywhere.”
Congressman John Lewis is the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district, serving since 1987, and Senior Chief Deputy Whip. Lewis has dedicated his life to public service and civil rights. He was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders who challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. By 1963, he was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and named Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). For his lifelong commitment to social justice, he was awarded the highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, by President Barack Obama in 2011. “Congressman John Lewis is a true American hero and a pillar of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Margaret Fung,
Simone Wu is senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for Choice Hotels International, one of the world’s largest hotel franchisors. Prior to joining Choice Hotels, Wu served as executive vice president, general counsel, and secretary for XO Communications, a leading nationwide telecommunications corporation. Through her 20 years of legal and regulatory experience, Wu has been committed to advancing diversity in the legal profession, including serving on the board of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, which was founded to advance the hiring, retention, and promotion of diverse attorneys in legal departments and the law firms. “We honor Simone Wu’s dedication to promoting diversity and equal opportunity in the corporate sector,” said Fung.