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Illegal Immigrant Pushes For Immigration Reform in Campus Speech

America is becoming “browner, more Asian, and gayer,” and now more than ever is the time to lobby hard for massive immigration reform, the so-called most famous illegal person in America told a group of CU Boulder students during a recent guest appearance.

Jose Antonio Vargas, a prominent journalist who recently outed himself in high-profile national magazines as an undocumented worker, said in his mid-December speech at the campus that “as immigration reform heats up, we will need … voices. We need American citizens coming out and speaking up.”

In a speech that aimed to justify and almost glamorize illegal immigration, Vargas noted “the great thing is there are so many undocumented young people” leading the charge for immigration reform. He called on CU Boulder students to join that cause.

“The ball is in your court,” he said, telling students to contact lawmakers and demand immigration reform.

Vargas noted the “country is getting browner, more Asian, and gayer,” and conservatives and Republicans must accept that. He said the tide is in the favor of those who seek to open the borders, especially after the November election.

“Every thirty seconds a Latino turns eighteen, it becomes a vote,” he said. “President Obama would not have won if it wasn’t for the Latino vote. Period. If it wasn’t for Latinos in Colorado, Florida, and Virginia, it would have been over. Mitt Romney would have won. President Obama will make sure that immigration reform happens in the future.”

Asked how to handle those who see the issue differently, Vargas said “conservative, white Americans have a language of their own and are not on the train and don’t fit in the equation.”

His advice?

“Convince them that they are not the majority and we are not trying to take your slice of the pie,” he said. “I’m trying to grow it.”

Vargas said he plans to undertake a documentary on “whiteness” after he is finished with a project on illegal immigration, expected this spring.

Meanwhile, he has made several speeches across America over the last several months at college campuses and other locations as founder of “Define American,” which seeks to put immigration reform on the national radar.

Vargas’ speech at CU Boulder also touched on his fairly recent decision to come out as someone who lives and works in the country illegally.

Part of Vargas’ inspiration to give speeches, he said, came from being “fascinated by the lack of information and animosity” over illegal immigration.

According to Vargas, America was created by illegal immigrants: “About twelve million undocumented white people from Europe crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Ellis Island.”

On a personal note, Vargas said he arrived in the country through his grandfather, who lived in the Philippines, and gave him a social security and green card. As a teenager, when Vargas sought his driver’s license, the DMV told him that his green card was fake and not to come back, he said.

Confused, Vargas told his grandfather, who replied: “You’re not supposed to be here.” And so began Vargas’ dilemma of being in America without papers and trying not to get caught.

Vargas said he could not obtain citizenship by marrying a U.S. citizen because he is gay, so he worked many under-the-table jobs to get an income and to pursue a journalism career. To obtain a driver’s license and land a legitimate job, Vargas said he had some “allies” who wrote letters to the DMV confirming his residency.

Vargas said when he was with The Washington Post he paid Social Security taxes, and added “undocumented people paid $168 million in taxes in Colorado (last year).”

Eventually, Vargas said, he was tired of “running” and wanted to write about “why he had not been deported” to draw attention to illegal immigration.

Fix contributor Aslinn Scott is a student at the University of Colorado Boulder.

IMAGE: Phil of Photos/Flickr

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