Journalist Who Grew Up In Bay Area Admits Being Undocumented Worker

MOUNTAIN VIEW (CBS 5) — A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who grew up in the Bay Area made a startling admission, outing himself as an undocumented worker.

“I’m an undocumented immigrant. What some people call an illegal,” said 30-year-old Jose Antonio Vargas in a YouTube video.

When Vargas was 12 and living in the Philippines, his mother took him to the airport and sent him to Mountain View to live with his grandparents – who provided him with a green card that turned out to be fake.

“My mom wanted me to have a better life, so she sent me to live with my grandparents in Silicon Valley,” Vargas said in the video.

Vargas didn’t know about his citizenship status until he was 16, when he tried to apply for a driver’s license.

College seemed out of reach and low-wage jobs likely, until Vargas told Mountain View High School Principal Pat Hyland and school district Superintendent Rich Fisher that he was in the country illegally.

They became mentors and surrogate parents, eventually finding a scholarship fund for high-achieving students that allowed him to attend San Francisco State University.

Vargas was hired for an internship at The San Francisco Chronicle and would later become a newspaper writer for The Washington Post, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the mass shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech University.

He said in an interview Thursday that he wants to push Congress to pass a bill called the DREAM Act that would allow people like himself who came to this country as children to get an education and become citizens.

A spokesperson for the San Jose immigrant rights group SIREN said rarely does someone so prominent as Vargas come out to put a face on the hot button issue of illegal immigration.

“It highlights the very reason people come to this country: the American Dream, to have opportunity that the parents didn’t have,” said Siren’s Zelica Rodriguez.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)


More From CBS San Francisco

Get The New CBS SF Bay Area Local App
Got Our Weather App?

Listen Live