Jose Antonio Vargas is the founder of Define American, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to elevating and reframing the immigration conversation.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Vargas, in a June 2012 cover story for TIME magazine titled “WE ARE AMERICANS* (*Just not legally),” popularized the term “undocumented Americans” in describing the country’s population of 11.5 million undocumented immigrants.
In February 2013, he moderated a White House Fireside Hangout on Google+ on President Obama’s proposal for immigration reform with White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, and testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on immigration reform alongside officials from ICE and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Jose has been a journalist for over a decade, writing for some of the most prestigious news organizations in the country, including the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, the Huffington Post and the Washington Post, where he was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. Vargas has broken new ground in his coverage of various issues, from technology’s impact in politics to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the nation’s capital. His 2006 series on AIDS in Washington, D.C. inspired a feature-length documentary — The Other City — which he co-produced and wrote. It world premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival and aired on Showtime.
Stunning the media and political circles and attracting world-wide coverage, Vargas then told the biggest journalistic story of his career: himself. In the landmark essay for the New York Times Magazine titled “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant,” published in June 2011, he revealed his undocumented status for the first time publicly and declared his mission to shed light to the universal truth about immigration in America in the 21st century.
Since then, Jose has traveled around the country, telling his story to organizations and universities and engaging people in an honest dialogue about immigration in America.
A very proud alumnus of Mountain View High School and San Francisco State University, he lives in New York City but calls the Bay Area home.
He is currently directing a documentary film on the undocumented experience.