The Spectacle Blog

Coming Out of the Immigration Closet

By on 7.7.11 | 5:09PM

Jose Antonio Vargas, the journalist who "came out" as "undocumented" in a recent issue of the New York Times Magazine, made an appearance at the Campus Progress national conference on Wednesday. He made headlines with his piece "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant", in which he related his struggles with separation and exclusion due to his citizenship status and his sexuality. (Vargas is also gay.)

And this week, Campus Progress (an arm of the George-Soros-funded Center for American Progress) welcomed Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winner who writes for The Washington Post, to speak about his experience as what some of us would call an illegal alien.

Not Vargas, though. At the conference, he proclaimed, "I am not illegal. I am a human being. I am not an alien, from Mars."

Vargas told the story of how he discovered his citizenship status when he was 16: He went to the DMV to apply for a driver's license, and was told then that his Green Card was fake. He proceeded to denounce those who use the terms "illegal immigrant" and "illegal alien", saying that "illegal" should never be used to describe a person-apparently, even if he has broken the law.

He also drew a parallel between today's illegal immigrants and oppressed groups of the past when he told the college-student-packed auditorium that immigration is "the other civil rights issue of your generation" (the first being same-sex marriage).

Vargas's rhetoric fit right in with the rest of the conference's speakers, including President Bill Clinton, who touted diversity as "America's greatest asset," saying, "That's why I passionately believe in the DREAM Act."

Clinton continued, "I think we're better off with more immigrants, not fewer," making no distinction between legal and illegal immigration.

Gaby Pacheco, project coordinator for Education Not Deportation and National Coordinator of United We DREAM, agreed with Vargas that the word "illegal" has been misused by anti-(illegal)-immigration activists. According to Pacheco, equating "illegal" with "criminal" was simply a tactic employed by "the opposition" as part of a smear campaign to make immigrants look bad. It had nothing to do with the words actually meaning the same thing.

Pacheco also argued that she (herself "undocumented") in fact contributes her fair share to American society because she doesn't demand to have the sales tax removed from the price of everything she buys.

Overall, the tone of the conference-not surprisingly-was overwhelmingly pro-DREAM and pro-political correctness when it came to discussing immigration. The phrases "comprehensive immigration reform", "undocumented", and "coming out"-in the immigration debate, common euphemisms for "amnesty", "illegal", and "confessing"-got plenty of use from speakers and conference-goers alike.

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