Wednesday, October 22, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

How to define an American

navarrette column sig

By
From page A7 | June 26, 2014 |

SAN DIEGO — It’s a summer night in Washington. On the Mall, across from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, people are sitting on lawn chairs and huddled on blankets staring at a white screen. The feature: “Documented,” the new film by journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, one of most famous undocumented immigrants in the country – and one of the most outspoken.

It’s been three years since Vargas – who had worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post and other publications – “came out” as an illegal immigrant in a 4,600-word essay in The New York Times Magazine. Since then, he has earned a good living by speaking at more than 200 events and visiting 110 colleges and universities in 45 states. He has appeared on the cover of Time magazine, started a nonprofit organization called “Define American,” and shepherded a campaign to get newspapers to drop the term “illegal immigrant.” (He calls himself an “undocumented American.”)

Now, through more hard work and by paying half the production costs out of his pocket, he has become a filmmaker.

There’s a scene in the documentary, which has been playing in movie theaters around the country for the past few months and which will air June 29 on CNN, where Vargas is testifying before Congress. He makes it clear he’s not going to be judged by sanctimonious lawmakers. Instead, he puts them on the spot.

“What do you want to do with me?” he asks them on behalf of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. “What do you want to do with us?”

Vargas was there that night in Washington, watching as the scene flashed on the screen, a short walk from where he testified.
Only in America.

My favorite scene in the film comes near the end when Vargas, who came to the United States from the Philippines to live with his grandparents at the age of 12 and did not discover he was here illegally until he went to get a driver’s license as a teenager, shares a Skype call with his mother, who tried to follow him to America but was never able to leave the Philippines. For years, he felt abandoned. But, as we see, a mother’s love transcends international borders.

So does a son’s.

In fact, while the filmmaker calls the finished product “an act of artistic civil disobedience,” it is mainly a love letter from a son to his mother. It’s also a love letter to his adopted country.

“I have to say to America that I lied,” Vargas told me. “And that I’m sorry. You find peace when you find gratitude. I love America, like I love my mother.”

My relationship with Vargas has sometimes been frosty. In July 2011, just a few weeks after he revealed his status, I called him a “discredit to his profession” and someone who, through his deception, had “made an already tough job – that of being an ethnic journalist – more difficult.”

What should we do with him? Deport him, I said. “What are we supposed to do?” I asked. “Grant him a special dispensation because he’s a journalist and not a janitor? . . . That’s not what this country is about.”

I was wrong.

After watching this inspirational film, and interviewing Vargas on three different occasions, I now realize that this undocumented American has a better understanding than I do of what this country is about.

In speeches, I tell audiences that – while I’ve written about immigration for a quarter-century – I don’t really understand the topic. I was born in the United States, just like my parents and three of my four grandparents. You want to know about immigration? Talk to an immigrant.

Still, I’ll take up Vargas’ challenge. How do I define American? It’s someone with courage, ingenuity, perseverance, work ethic, love of freedom. It’s someone who raises issues, raises consciousness and – if needed – raises hell.

This film should be required viewing for anyone who wants to understand the human toll of a broken immigration system that likely won’t be fixed anytime soon. And yet, if anyone has earned through talent and tenacity the right to live here legally, and perhaps get on a plane to visit his mother while knowing that he’ll be welcomed back, it’s Vargas.

Not letting anyone else define you. Lending your voice to those who don’t have one. Striving for excellence and never giving up. That’s what this country is all about.

Ruben Navarrette is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Reach him at ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

Ruben Navarrette

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 8 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • 2realJune 26, 2014 - 5:34 pm

    An american is everything obama isnt.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Danny BuntinJune 26, 2014 - 6:48 pm

    Why did I know that only one nimrod would respond with a comment like that. You are to predictable "2real".

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The SugarJarJune 26, 2014 - 7:20 pm

    Real Americans, real Christians, real men, real women. It does get real old, real fast.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895June 26, 2014 - 9:17 pm

    Well said. I don't get this "real" stuff either.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • 2realJune 26, 2014 - 9:04 pm

    How bout you quit swinging from obamas nuts and open your eyes. Hes sorry and so are you

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The SugarJarJune 26, 2014 - 9:32 pm

    @2real, using the pronoun "you" -- which you are you, "2real," referring to?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The SugarJarJune 26, 2014 - 9:37 pm

    @2real, there is nothing wrong with being a Christian, Muslim, being Jewish, Hindu, or any denomination. Or bring Atheist and so on. Nothing wrong with being American, and with loving your country. There is something terribly wrong with swinging any of it around like a 4x4.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • 2realJune 26, 2014 - 9:08 pm

    What gets old about being a christian and loving the U.S.A. ? Two things that dump of a president knows nothing about. Now THATS 2real. God bless and goodnight

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Crime key topic again at Fairfield candidates night

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1, 42 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Dixon corn maze breaks own world record

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A2, 2 Comments | Gallery

Tots can trick-or-treat at Solano Town Center

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Car washes raising money to fight breast cancer

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Fairfield Police Department promotes 2, honors 1

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 3 Comments | Gallery

 
Families Helping Families preps for holidays

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Charity Tree Auction application deadline nears

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
2 new challenges part of 2014 Solano Turkey Trot

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
PAL center seeks volunteers

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Solano names new First 5 director

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A6

 
$1.4M land sale by Fairfield gets OK

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

Action, thriller movies headed to box office

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Fairfield police log: Oct. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: Oct. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Oct. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Oct. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Oct. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Oct. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Assad pursues withering campaign against rebels

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
FBI: Denver girls may have tried to join jihadis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 4 Comments

IS fighters seize weapons cache meant for Kurds

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
7 arrested in Oakland raid on Black Muslim Temple

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Stinky seaweed piling up at upscale Laguna Beach

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
California man goes missing during road trip

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

2nd guilty plea in California tainted beef case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Golden Gate Bridge officials float sidewalk toll

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 5 Comments

5 Jonestown victims buried in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
New rules adopted in hopes of spurring home loans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Pakistani Nobel laureate honored in Philadelphia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

AP-GfK Poll: Most expect GOP victory in November

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Cadaver dog searches in suspected serial killings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Schools scoured in search for ambush suspect

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Freed Vietnamese dissident travels to US: official

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

North Korea frees US man; 2 more still detained

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Brown meets with health care experts about Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

US expands Ebola checks; Rwanda to check Americans

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
WHO: Ebola vaccine trials in W. Africa in January

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

.

Opinion

Expect voter participation to drop

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11, 12 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoons: Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
Spering kept youth league going

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 14 Comments

Day, Blankenchip good for respective cities

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 6 Comments

 
‘Misleading’ mailer sent to residents

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 10 Comments

.

Living

Today in History: Oct. 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Oct. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Oct. 22, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

 
Is it OK for a business to use its contacts to raise money for a charity?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B6

Roasted beets can brighten up any holiday table

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Hummus and chocolate together? Deliciously so!

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7, 1 Comment | Gallery

Easy slow cooker chili that lives up to the hype

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A5

 
Argentina demands ‘Top Gear’ apology from BBC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

‘S.H.I.E.L.D’ fans push for Coulson/May romance

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
From Kors to DVF, fashion mourns de la Renta

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

.

Sports

Local report: Vikings earn 3-0 SCAC volleyball win over Wolves

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
SJS releases season’s first wins list

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Bumgarner, Giants stop Royals 7-1 in Series opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Bruins hold off Sharks to win 5-3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Logano: No worries about retaliation from Patrick

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Cowboys release Michael Sam from practice squad

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Fighters suing Mayweather over Vegas cable TV bout

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
49ers lose center Daniel Kilgore, needs surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Raiders plagued by 3rd-down defensive woes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
For a young Mexican golf star, seeing helps him believe

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Shaw shoulders blame for Stanford’s slide

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Newman dodges penalty for Talladega inspection

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

WS Game 2 starters Ventura, Peavy study in contrasts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Hats off! Royals get old-timey with tip o’ the hat

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

KC, San Fran mayors announce World Series wager

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3, 1 Comment

 
Ezeli returns as Warriors beat Clippers 125-107

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Buster’s back: Posey tries to add 3rd Series ring

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
AP sources: Rice’s appeal hearing set for Nov. 5-6

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Kings GM: NHL should educate after Voynov’s arrest

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Broncos are still No. 1 in AP Pro32 rankings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius gets 5 years in prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
.

Business

5 problems McDonald’s is facing in the US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
New efforts to ban tobacco farm child labor

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Total CEO killed in Moscow runway crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
China economy grows at slowest pace in 5 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Google’s streaming music service adds mood to mix

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Obituaries

Rufina Ferrer Levengood

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6