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“A productive member of society”: Talking immigration with Jose Antonio Vargas

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Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 2.04.01 PMIt’s been quite the week here at Pando, but at times like this it’s good to have one’s own problems put in perspective.

So it was on Tuesday night when Sarah Lacy and I went to a screening room in San Francisco to watch Jose Antonio Vargas’ remarkable documentary, Documented.

The film was originally released in 2013 but is now being considered as a possible Oscar contender. And the timing of the screening was appropriate for a second reason: A few hours later, President Obama would announce sweeping immigration reform affecting almost 5m undocumented Americans.

Documented, which is available on Netflix, tells the story of how Vargas came to America at the age of 12 as an unauthorized immigrant. Despite becoming one of the nation’s highest profile journalists, even winning a Pulitzer prize, he managed to keep his undocumented status secret until 2011 when he “came out” in an essay written for the New York Times.

Since then, through his group Define American, Vargas has been publicizing the plight of America’s estimated 11m undocumented inhabitants. If Documented wins an Academy Award it will be the first time an undocumented American has earned that prize.

After the screening, Sarah hosted a brief interview and q&a session with Vargas, during which the two discussed whether the involvement of tech titans in the immigration debate is sincere, or merely self interested. They also discussed what it’s like to be a son separated indefinitely from his mother, the toxicity of the phrase “productive member of society” and much more.

PandoDaily

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