Vargas' journey 'Documented'

Local immigration activist releases documentary on being undocumented

Jose Antonio Vargas is preparing to make his directorial debut. The Mountain View High School alumnus, former Voice intern and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist will screen his new film, "Documented," in Washington D.C. this week.

Vargas -- who famously "came out" in the pages of the New York Times Magazine, revealing his family brought him into the United States illegally when he was just 12 -- has been putting the finishing touches on his documentary, which is scheduled to premier June 20 as a part of the American Film Institute's annual AFI Docs festival.

"Documented" follows Vargas over the course of 2011 and 2012, as he tours the country and talks about immigration with people of various backgrounds and political views. According to an AFI press release, the film is framed by "Vargas' personal story." A copy of the film was not available for review prior to publication, but a trailer for the documentary makes it clear that there are two sides to Vargas' identity as "one of the country's most prominent undocumented immigrants."

The trailer shows Vargas giving interviews on cable news, crashing a Mitt Romney rally with a sign reading "I am an American w/o papers" and addressing a Congressional panel. It also shows clips of Vargas' mother -- who lives in the Philippines and hasn't seen her son in 20 years -- struggling to hold back tears and Vargas sobbing violently.

"The premier is the culmination of a significant emotional investment," said Pat Hyland, who served as principal at MVHS during Vargas' time at the school and has remained close to Vargas over the years.

Hyland, who told the Voice she would be at the AFI Docs festival to see "Documented," said she knows the filming of the documentary has taken a toll on Vargas. "It's a tough conversation," she said. "It's a must-have conversation." She said she is confident that Vargas is committed to doing as much as he can to make sure that the conversation takes place.

"I'm proud of him," Hyland said.

Barry Groves, superintendent of the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, was not working for the district when Vargas discovered he had a fake green card. Groves said Vargas' story resonates with him just the same.

"I'm very much in favor of Jose's efforts," Groves said. The superintendent said he isn't sure of the exact numbers, as MVLA's programs are "blind to documentation status." But, Groves said he is sure there are students in his district who are currently dealing with the same challenges. "We have many Jose Vargases in our school system right now."

While MVLA has not taken an official stance on the issue, Groves said he is personally in favor of supporting students like Vargas any way he can. Students who are living in the U.S. illegally have come to this country "through no fault of their own," Groves said.

Groves said he is proud his district was able to give Vargas the support he needed to make it to college and succeed as a journalist. Vargas received assistance from the MVLA Community Scholars program, which helped him to attend San Francisco State University.

The MVLA Community Scholars program has only grown since it helped Vargas, Groves said, and the program will continue to help students regardless of their backgrounds. "I think we have a moral obligation to these people -- particularly the younger people."

Of course, not everyone sees things the same way. During a talk at Los Altos High School's Eagle Theatre back in November of 2012, Vargas discussed meeting people who were openly hostile toward him while he was making his documentary. They told him he did not belong here, that he should go home -- back where he came from.

But that's the problem, according to Vargas. For him home is not where he came from. America is his home and he can't imagine living anywhere else.

Katherine Pantangco was among the very first to learn Vargas' secret. Before the New York Times Magazine ran his essay, "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant," Vargas visited the Oracle, Mountain View High School's student newspaper and told Pantangco -- then a junior -- and her classmates about his intention to publicly disclose his status.

That was back in 2011. Now Pantangco is attending University of San Francisco State and she said she is excited to see the finished documentary. "It's kind of coming together now," said Pantangco, who plans to be at the D.C. premier.

Since Vargas first visited the Oracle, Pantangco, who is also Filipino, said she has become a part of the journalist's "Mountain View family." And while she is an American citizen, she said she knows people who have faced the same struggles Vargas has.

She hopes that the documentary will help bring a human face to the immigration debate. "We can read about immigration in the newspaper, but when we see this story, just focusing on one family, that will help humanize it," she said.

Pantangco said she feels the those who view immigrants as the enemy might change their mind if they were able to see how families are torn apart as a result of current immigration law. "We forget it's about people," she said.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


3 people like this
Posted by Wo\'O Ideafarm
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Wo\'O Ideafarm is a registered user.

With eleven million invading colonists on U.S. soil, there will be many heart wrenching stories such as that of Mr. Vargas. The suffering in these stories is real, and we must deal with this issue with compassion and strive for a WIN-WIN response, so that those who are here illegally are presented with a path to citizenship.

However, such stories are deliberately used to appeal to our hearts while end running around our brains. Mr. Vargas has neither a legal nor a moral right to be on United States territory. If he speaks English and has assimilated and is an active participant in our system of self government, then he is a true immigrant and should be welcomed. But far too many of these eleven million people are invading colonists, pure and simple. They come to take, but not to join us as one united people. They do not speak English. They do not assimilate. If you ask them, "Do you love your country?", they will say, "Si, si! Viva Mexico!". These people are colonists. They are not immigrants.

Compassion, combined with the exemplary moral character of the vast majority of these people, dictates that they must be presented with the opportunity to become true immigrants. Those not willing to speak English at work and in public places, to assimilate, to join us as one united people, and to give their allegiance to the United States Constitution and to the ideal of "liberty and justice for all" that it represents, should be given the boot.

3 people like this
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 20, 2013 at 9:57 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

3 people like this
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 21, 2013 at 3:06 pm

The poster child for Labor Arbitrage. There are far more recreational drug users and tax cheats than there are invading colonists coming for social services and lousy jobs. Let's legalize tax cheating and dope.

3 people like this
Posted by Something is fishy
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 21, 2013 at 3:57 pm

So the Republicans what the immigrants for the labor and the liberals want their votes.

Sounds to me like the gov't trying use these people for the wrong reasons. Making them sound like second class citizens. Soon they will wake up and find this isn't what they dreamed of.

We have 1 million people immigrate to the US legally. These are people that have earned their way LEGALLY and went through the proper channels.

Welcome to America

3 people like this
Posted by Monta Loma
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Oh Nick Vernon, do your homework. Katherine does not attend SF State, she goes to USF.

3 people like this
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 21, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I wish we didn't have illegal immigrants. Since we do, I wish that all or at least most of them can be legalized. I wish our immigration laws were changed to welcome anyone who wants to come to America, whether to visit (tourism) or work (temporary or permanent), whether short time or permanent, and whether they become citizens or not.

Our great country has grown strong and vibrant because of wave after wave of immigrants, starting with the first permanent settlements in the 17th Century. Now is not the time to say, "No more!" And now is not the time to punish those who are already here, even illegally, either through no fault of their own (Jose Antonio Vargas) or because they were so desperate to be here that they would come or stay illegally.

3 people like this
Posted by Mr. DePortum
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 21, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Too late, should have done something 50 years ago, now it's like putting a band aid on a shotgun wound.

3 people like this
Posted by Wo\'O Ideafarm
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Wo\'O Ideafarm is a registered user.

Mr. Pearson's opinion is also my own. I would add that the United States is a stunning and unique experiment in liberty and justice, and that we are merely stewards of that great, God-inspired experiment. We possessors of the territory of the United States have no moral right to grant or withhold access to this land of liberty and justice.

In the long view, I envision a world in which every human being on the planet has an equal right to contract for residency and/or citizenship, with the territorial governments competing vigorously with each other for citizens and noncitizen residents.

Today's world, in which an individual's economic, political, and social opportunities are determined by where he or she happens to have been born, is appallingly unjust.

I am a hardliner on this issue only on the question of how to get from here to there. For the long view, I share Maria Marroquin's vision of a borderless world.

Join with me, and perhaps with Mrs. Marroquin, in envisioning a world in which the territorial governments function as merely large property management firms.

3 people like this
Posted by Mr. DePortum
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 22, 2013 at 8:25 am

What a SHAME!!!

3 people like this
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2013 at 10:33 am

So why is a recommendation that we deport criminals deemed an offensive comment?

Breaking laws is a crime. A person who breaks laws is a criminal. Vargas has broken the law multiple times.

3 people like this
Posted by Wo\'O Ideafarm
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2013 at 10:47 am

Wo\'O Ideafarm is a registered user.

USA: Please send me the exact text of your post that was censored. Do not sanitize or otherwise alter what you send to me. Once I receive it, I will pursue the matter with the editor of the Voice.

Censorship is incompatible with our notions of freedom and of self government. The partial censorship of your post also defames you. More precisely, it defames the pseudonym, "USA", that you use. (Interesting legal question: are people who post behind pseudonyms protected by slander / defamation law?)

3 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 23, 2013 at 4:08 pm

What he or she said above.

3 people like this
Posted by Litsa
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Hey MV Voice. Why did you delete my post?
All I said was "He's here illegally. He should be deported".
Did I use offensive language or do you guys not believe in freedom of speech?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

First Sunnyvale, then Australia: Mountain View's Le Plonc plots expansion
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 2,469 views

Juggling Renewables
By Sherry Listgarten | 35 comments | 1,970 views

Premarital and Couples: Living as Roommates?
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,422 views

Homestead Faire at Hidden Villa 4/27
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 750 views


Best of Mountain View ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "Best Of Mountain View" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 27th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 19th issue of the Mountain View Voice.