This semester’s Freedom and Learning Forum at George Mason University will feature award-winning journalist, filmmaker and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas.
Mason’s President Ángel Cabrera will host a conversation with Vargas on human rights and immigration in the Hub Ballroom from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20.
In 2011, Vargas “outed” himself as an undocumented immigrant in an essay he wrote for the New York Times. He wrote about coming to America from the Philippines, the moment he found out his green card was fake, and working as a journalist while keeping his legal status hidden. His recent memoir, “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen,” expands on his story.
Michelle Allen, assistant director of programming for the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education + LGBTQ Resources, said she is proud to bring Vargas to Mason. She said the collegiate experience is about increasing exposure and diversifying knowledge.
"By having someone like Jose Antonio Vargas come on campus, we can expand the realm of exposure for students but also combat the major discourse that exists that the only people that are dealing with this conversation around immigration, deportation and citizenship are people of Latin and Hispanic heritage,” said Allen, who added that documentation is an issue for people from many different continents.
Allen said timing is also ideal since October is also Filipino American History Month and LGBT History Month, which celebrates two populations that Vargas identifies with.
Vargas was part of the team from The Washington Post that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for their coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings. He is also the founder of the nonprofit Define American, a media and culture organization that “uses the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity and citizenship in a changing America.”
Vargas produced and directed “Documented,” a documentary about his undocumented experience. The film received a 2015 Image Award nomination for Outstanding Documentary. In 2015, MTV aired “White People,” an Emmy-nominated television special he produced and directed on what it means to be young and white in a demographically changing America.
The event is free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged, but not required, and can be found at lead.gmu.edu/freedom.
The event is hosted by ODIME + LGBTQ Resources, the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Office, Parents Fund, Office of the President, University Life, University Life Programming Committee, Social Action and Integrative Learning (SAIL), Housing and Residence Life, New Student and Family Programs, Honors College and Student Involvement.