At 31, Jose Antonio Vargas has accomplished what others double his age eluded them: become a cover of the venerable TIME Magazine.
The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist becomes the only Filipino non-politician to make the cover of all editions (U.S., Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia and South Pacific). His idol Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao graced the TIME Magazine Asia edition cover in 2009.
But with his controversial loss to American boxing champion Tim Bradley, Pacquiao, I feel, could be returned to the cover for all editions of 83-year-old American newsweekly magazine. Other prominent Filipinos who made the cover of TIME Magazine were former Presidents Manuel L. Quezon, Manuel L. Roxas, Ramon Magsaysay, Ferdinand Marcos and President Corazon C. Aquino (who was featured four times, once as Woman of the Year in 1986).
In a mass-email to his supporters that was received by this reporter, the Manila-born Mr. Vargas said, “I am humbled. “One year ago, I wrote a life-changing essay for the New York Times in which I came out publicly — very publicly — as an undocumented immigrant. I took people along on my journey to America, described working as a successful journalist, and celebrated the many citizens who went out of their way to help me thrive. all along, I knew that mine was just one story.”
Vargas said, he and “at least 2,000 undocumented Americans — and we are, at heart, Americans — have personally contacted me and outed themselves. Their stories flooded in at public events and in late-night Facebook messages – and will be featured in the “THE COVER OF TIME:#WEAREAMERICANS” 14 June 2012.”
Aside from having his face in the cover, Mr. Vargas, now a New York-city resident, will also be writing the cover story himself.
Vargas said, “Today, the cover of TIME Magazine features the culmination of yearlong journey. It is a reflection on what I’ve experienced traveling across the United States, after ‘coming out’ publicly as an undocumented immigrant a year ago this month (actually on June 21).
“I reflect on the tough questions I’ve been asked and tell the stories of some of the toughest young people I’ve ever known: young DREAMers who are American through and through – whose courage and determination has now been documented by TIME filmmakers.’
In his recent talk in Chicago, Illinois (May 9), Vargas recounted he has been in 60 events in 20 states in 11 months since he outed himself in a New York Times Magazine first-person account on June 22, 2011 issue and he is still very much in the thick of the fight for immigration reform of a broken system that considers him an illegal immigrant “even if I pay taxes and pay for my social security that I will not benefit from.”
Because he could not have a U.S. government-issued ID, like a valid driver’s license, he is using to get by a Philippine passport issued to him by the Philippine government.
A former reporter for The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Philadelphia Daily News, Vargas wrote about his experience as an undocumented immigrant in a June 2011 essay for The New York Times Magazine, a decision that resulted in him getting legal documentation revoked and losing his job. He has since founded his own organization, Define American, through which he advocates the DREAM Act and other immigration reform.
Vargas was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for a team of Washington Post reporters covering the Virgin Tech shooting for Breaking News Reporting category. Carlos P. Romulo is said to be the first full-bloodied Filipino to have received the Pulitzer Prize in 1942 as editor of the Philippines Herald after writing a series that predicted the outbreak of World War II. Romulo’s citizenship at that time, however, could be debatable because under Commonwealth Philippines, residents of the Commonwealth are either U.S. Citizens or U.S. Nationals.
But Vargas still gets paid from time to time when he writes pieces for certain publications, obviously the TIME Magazine cover story, which asks a minimum “One-Week Digital Pass” subscriber to pay $4.99 to access his story.
While he believes DREAM Act (which passed in the U.S. House but failed in the U.S. Senate by four votes for a filibuster-free majority in 2010) is a solution, it is, however, not the comprehensive solution to the immigration problem.
He said while DREAM Act will benefit young children, like him, who came to the U.S. at 12, if a minor completes a U.S. high school education or GED or enlists in the U.S. military as their paths to their green card. However, these young children will be returning home to parents and older brothers or sisters, who are undocumented immigrants. And if these relatives could as well become documented, then, these could be the comprehensive solutions that Define American would be helping attain.
Vargas is saddened that Sen. Dick Lugar, who supported the DREAM Act in 2001, will no longer be around to push forward the legislation. But he is happy other Republicans in Sen. Marco Rubio is now part of the mix supporting immigration reforms. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Photo of Time Magazine Cover (Courtesy of Jose Antonio Vargas)