Life As An Undocumented Immigrant

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Majority of us are no longer a stranger to the stigma around immigrants, and it’s been more prevalent than ever in America due to the president’s stance about it. Therefore, lots of immigrants including those who seem to have no proper legal documentation have progressively become more outspoken about their struggle because they can’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel. After all, there’s no possible way in which they could gain citizenship. Being a reputable journalist and Pulitzer prize winner isn’t an exception to all these unfortunate circumstances. Jose Antonio Vargas is an immigrant from the Philippines. His mother believed that her son could live a better life outside of his country so she made the bold decision to send her 12-year-old son abroad to live with his grandparents in Mountain View, California. He adapted to his surroundings in no time until he discovered the fact that all his legal documents were fake. From that moment onwards, all the dirty secrets that were kept away from him began to unravel one by one as his grandparents admitted that they paid a huge sum of money to smuggle him into the country therefore his Lolo (grandfather) in particular had to pull some trick up his sleeves to make most things work. This definitely marks a huge turning point in his life as what was once a carefree boy turned into an anxious and scared individual because he slowly became more aware of most American’s sentiments towards immigrants.

On June 22nd, 2011, Vargas published an article titled “My Life as an undocumented immigrant” through a huge publication called The New York Times. The purpose of this article is to show his personal experience to persuade people to speak up about undocumented immigrants’ rights and further educate themselves about the struggles and emotional burdens that undocumented immigrants have to carry from such a young age. Through this article Vargas’ choice in terms of organization, the medium to publicize his story, and his appeal to pathos make it extremely effective in terms of evoking an emotional response and clear understanding about not only his personal struggles but also about this issue as a whole from the audience.

Even though Vargas basically grew up in America, achieved so many great things in his life and event built a career as a reputable journalist, his status as an undocumented immigrant still haunts him every single day as he needs to keep his guards up at all time because everything might be taken away from him in a blink of an eye. He voiced out his frustration towards the whole stigma surrounding undocumented immigrants by stating “Yet even though I think of myself as an American and consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as its own.” (Vargas, Pgh. 9) this shows that even though he puts his heart and soul into his job he knows that at the end of the day he’ll still be overlooked and discriminated by Americans because of his status. This line itself successfully summarizes the true emotions that every undocumented immigrant has to go through, as they basically grew up in the States and feel an emotional attachment towards the country. However, the people can’t seem to reciprocate their sentiments due to their legal status which emphasizes their lack of sense of belonging and this truly makes us the readers, empathize with them.

His struggle with his legal status is further emphasized when he mentioned how “coming out about being gay seemed less daunting than coming out about my legal status.” (Vargas, Pgh.24) This stood out to me as he came out as gay during a discussion about the assassination of Harvey Milk, an openly gay San Francisco city official. Despite the repercussions and the stigma surrounding gay people back then he still found it so much easier to come clean about his sexual orientation rather than his legal status. This proves that he clearly prioritizes his life in America above anything else therefore he’d do anything to continue living there. As a reader, it is extremely hard to disregard his sense of desperation for validation and therefore he successfully used his own personal thoughts and emotions to bring out an emotional reaction within the readers.

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Vargas’s use of pathos throughout the article really helps in terms of understanding his perspective and the complex scenario that he has to deal with even better. One part that stood out to me the most was when he admitted to crying in his bathroom even though he won the Pulitzer Prize, an extremely prestigious award (Vargas, Pgh.54) This gives the readers a glimpse of the reality of undocumented immigrants as this shows that they’re constantly on edge despite all the good things that might come their way as everything feels so vulnerable. He also mentioned how the more he achieved the more depressed he becomes because he needs to adhere to the eight-year deadline which marks the expiration of his Oregon driver’s license (Vargas, Pgh.58) This emphasizes the urgency of the situation and evokes a surge of emotion within the readers as we can’t help but feel the sense of urgency and a heightened sense of fear and anxiety along with him.

The organization of this article is made in the form of chronological order. This has the capability of making the readers feel as though we’re right there beside him as he experiences all the twists and turns in his life. For instance, Vargas started this article by showing his innocence and love for the country but as soon as the story progresses it keeps getting more intense as he is forced to face the harsh reality of life due to society’s unwillingness to fully allow him to flourish due to his legal status. All the years he spent hiding and running from the truth must’ve taken a toll on him as he boldly states that he doesn’t want that life anymore and decided to bear the consequence that might come his way (Vargas, Pgh.61). It is admirable how in the last few paragraphs he seemed to be extremely calm about his shocking revelation even though it is inarguably one of his deepest fear. Instead of showing signs of frustration and anger, he decided to express his gratitude towards his grandparents and acknowledge their sacrifice for him while deeply reflecting on his feelings towards his mother who decided to send him abroad. It is interesting cause instead of showing signs of worry, panic, or distress about the repercussions that might come his way, he instead recalls the moments that he shared with the people who mean the most to him along with his feelings towards them. Therefore, this allows the reader to sense his growth and maturity as an individual.

His choice to publish his story through a medium as huge as New York Times is extremely bold and courageous as his story will surely reach the majority of Americans in no time. Therefore, this gives the reader an idea that he must’ve had enough of living in fear to the point where he decided to come clean about his legal status despite being fully aware of the repercussions that might come to his ways such as being fired from his job or even severe issues such as deportation especially when he stated in his article that he found it so much easier to come out as a gay rather than his legal status. This part is extremely critical for the readers because he mentioned the various accomplishments and contributions that he made for this country throughout the article. It is quite hard to fathom why there’s absolutely no way for him to be given citizenship. This in fact adheres to Vargas’ purpose as this might potentially compel the readers to speak up about their opinion and cause a movement in favor of all the undocumented immigrants out there.

Vargas’ use of strategic organization, appropriate medium of publication, and appeal to pathos has successfully allowed the reader to form an emotional response and connection with the writer. His article has effectively allowed the readers to think critically about this issue without having any sort of biased opinion shoved down our throats as he’s just plainly telling his own personal experience, therefore we as the readers were given the freedom to form our own sense of understanding and trust towards the writer as he included lots of relevant information and even pictures about himself which further emphasizes his struggle. He seamlessly managed to touch the reader’s emotions and hence gives us enough reason to identify him as a credible source which then leads us to the fact that he did a great job in terms of fulfilling his purpose as the majority of the readers might feel the need to speak up about it now that they’ve gotten a glimpse on the truth and reality surrounding undocumented immigrants.  

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