Fifteen Questions with Jose Antonio Vargas

Anita B. Hofschneider

Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has written for the Washington Post and The New Yorker (among other publications) shocked readers earlier this year when he revealed that he is an undocumented American. After nearly 15 years of hiding his secret, he’s now speaking up about his own story and speaking out against the current state of immigration policy.

1. Fifteen Minutes: How has your life changed since you “came out” as undocumented?

Jose Antonio Vargas: If you have a driver’s license, give it a real, big, tight hug. I can’t drive—which sucks, because I love driving. [And] I can’t work. But I’ve never felt more liberated. It’s funny, I feel liberated and restricted at the same time. I feel like my job as a journalist just started. I feel like I’m working on the biggest story of my life.

2. FM: You seem really comfortable when you’re talking about your life. In reality, do you still have a hard time talking about these things so openly?

JAV: I’m in a transition. I was a reporter, so I’m used to asking the questions. That’s weird. I hear myself giving sound bites and cliché answers and I’m cringing inside to myself. I’m just trying to be as honest and as truthful of my reality as I can.

3. FM: You’ve mentioned discovering you were undocumented when you were 16. How old were you when you came to the United States?

JAV: Twelve.

4. FM: And when was the first time you really felt like you were undocumented?