For the past year, MVLA alumnus and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas compiled footage for a documentary focused on the process and aftermath of his coming out as an undocumented immigrant. His documentary, titled “DOCUMENTED,” was presented in his hometown, Mountain View, on January 27.
“DOCUMENTED” exposed new insights on Vargas that had not previously been publicized, such as his relationship with his mother. Many of Vargas’ decisions along with the political and social repercussions that he experienced were also exposed in the film, which he produced and directed on his own.
“My goal from the very beginning was to show what a broken immigration system does,” Vargas said in the documentary.
As a child, Vargas immigrated from the Philippines to Mountain View, California to live with his grandparents. When Vargas was 16, he discovered his undocumented status when he went to register for a driver’s license at the local DMV. Since then, Vargas has made a name for himself as a journalist, eventually earning the June 2011 Sidney Award for his Time Magazine article about undocumented immigration. Vargas also won a Pulitzer Prize for his work in 2008 as part of the Washington Post team that covered the Virginia Tech shootings. Over the years, Vargas has continued to raise awareness and bring change to the topic of undocumented immigration and reform.
Vargas’ efforts towards education and activism immigration reform did not stop after his initial exposé in the New York Times. Before the New York Times published his own revealing “coming out as undocumented” piece, Vargas gathered a film team to start filming what became the basis for his “DOCUMENTED” documentary. As the documentary exposes Vargas to the world, it also exposed the plight of the other 11 million undocumented immigrants within the United States. By coming clean about his immigration status, Vargas uses the media attention from his New York Times piece to help raise awareness for the injustices of the immigration system.
“DOCUMENTED” specifically presents viewers with an inside take on what it means to be an immigration reformist and the challenges undocumented immigrants face daily. The film highlights the current legislative holes within the system, showcasing how America lacks a solid “option forward” for the 11 million undocumented immigrants that live in the U.S. As Vargas continues to show the film across the nation, he has high hopes to bring even more change to the immigration reform movement by spreading the word and convincing even those that seem initially skeptical toward the idea to believe in it.
In the end, the showing in Mountain View was completely sold out. All proceeds from the screening went directly to benefit the MVLA Scholars Program, a scholarship program that supports MVLA high school students and helps them achieve a college education. Vargas was one of the first recipients of the scholarship program.