Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jose Antonio Vargas

Last semester I had my students in Comp I read Jose Antonio Vargas's profile of Mark Zuckerberg (creator of Facebook) from The New Yorker. I thought the article was fascinating and well-written, and I hoped my students would appreciate both learning about the man who changed the way they socialize and the quality of Vargas's writing.

During my current Summer term Comp I class, I am teaching Vargas once again. This time, however, my students and I will be discussing his recent, very personal, narrative essay, "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant," published a couple weeks ago in the New York Times. I found this essay to be incredibly moving, smart, and well-written. In publishing this piece, Vargas effectively came out of "the closet" as an undocumented immigrant, and opened himself up to a number of potentially unattractive legal consequences (arrest, detention, deportation--who knows?). He knowingly took this risk not only for personal reasons--he discusses in the article the psychological effects of living and practicing routine deception--but also out of a sense of justice and political activism. He is hoping to draw attention to the issue of immigration reform.

Twice in the article, Vargas mentions a proposed piece of legislation called the "DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) ACT." This modest law, first introduced in 2001, seeks to grant permanent residency and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors and complete a high school diploma. The bill was reintroduced into the U.S. Senate this year, but as far as I know, it has not moved forward.

My own thoughts on immigration reform are pretty out there. Philosophically, I don't really think nation-states should have the power to arbitrarily deport or deny entry to non-criminals. People should have greater freedom to seek opportunities wherever they are, so long as they are respectful of the communities in which they live and work. Laws designed to specifically and arbitrarily keep people out, I feel, are unethical.

Looking forward to this evening's class discussion. Hoping there will be a spirited conversation, if not debate.

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