Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist, Founder of DefineAmerican.com and Undocumented Immigrant.
A journalist for over a decade writing for some of the most prestigious news organizations in the country, Jose Antonio Vargas’ personal journey contends with some of the most fascinating stories he’s covered, living a double life since he was 16 years old. After being born and reared in the Philippines, his mother, wanting to give her son a better life, sent him to live with his grandparents in Silicon Valley in 1993.
Vargas loved his new homeland and immersed himself in American culture, spoke the language perfectly, studied hard in school and loved writing for the school paper. However, at 16 years old when applying for his Learner’s permit at the DMV, he discovered his green card was a fake, which was later confirmed by his grandfather. Vargas then realized he needed to continue hiding his true identity to avoid deportation and be able to pursue his American dream – a career in journalism.
And succeed he did. Vargas wrote a widely circulated profile of Mark Zuckerberg for The New Yorker. He also served as a senior contributing editor at the Huffington Post, where he launched the Technology and College sections and created the Technology as Anthropology blog, which focuses on tech’s impact on people and how they behave. He covered the tech and video game culture, HIV/AIDS, and the 2008 presidential campaign for the Washington Post, and was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. His 2006 series on HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C. inspired a feature-length documentary — The Other City — which he co-produced and wrote. In 2007, the daily journal Politico named him one of the 50 Politicos To Watch. Today Vargas runs Define American, a non-profit organization that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration. He was also featured on the cover of Time Magazine.