According to Jose Antonio Vargas, an immigrant rights activist and award-winning journalist, undocumented immigrants living here get very little in return though they contribute a lot to the country. He said that they are neighbors and friends to Americans. They own businesses and work here as child care providers, landscapers etc. Many come here from Mexico, Europe, Asia and South America for a better life. He made these comments when he spoke at the Dalton High School auditorium.
He said that the way in which people talk about immigrants and immigration must be changed. Similar to the cultural shift that happened on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights must happen on immigration, according to Vargas. He said that the cultural shift on LGBT rights first happened in media and later in politics. Similar to that, a shift must happen on immigration and immigrants. He said that the country does not see people as people but as illegals just because they got into the U.S. illegally or overstayed their visas.
Vargas is one among the country’s undocumented immigrants. He is a Filipino immigrant who grew up in the U.S. His grandparents brought him here when he was 12 years old. He worked as a journalist and also won the Pulitzer Prize. He revealed that he was an undocumented immigrant in an essay published by The New York Times in 2011. He then became an advocate on immigration. He started talking on the topic since then. He was recently invited to speak in Dalton in an event organized by the First Presbyterian Church of Dalton. He talked about “What it means to be American”.
He explained some of the issues that the undocumented immigrants face in their daily lives. He said that many undocumented immigrants living here love to become U.S. citizens. He said that the undocumented immigrants cannot obtain legal status just by filing applications and by waiting in line. They can only obtain legal status if the immigration system is reformed.
In order to help certain undocumented immigrants live here legally for a three year period, President Obama announced certain immigration reform rules in November 2014. The President’s immigration plans were temporarily blocked by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, in February 2015. The U.S. Justice Department asked the appeals court to lift the temporary block on the President’s immigration plan. But Judge Hanen refused to lift the ban. However, many believe that the ban will soon be lifted and the undocumented immigrants will get given a chance to apply for temporary legal status in the U.S.