Reporter who revealed undocumented status to speak at Chavez convocation

Jose Antonio Vargas
Jose Antonio Vargas
Poster for the Cesar Chavez Convocation

Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose article "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant," in the New York Times Magazine last year revealed his immigration status, will be the keynote speaker at the 9th annual César Chávez Convocation at UC Santa Cruz.

The convocation will take place Wednesday, May 16, at 7 p.m. in the College Nine & College Ten Multipurpose Room. The convocation is free and open to the public.

Vargas, who reported for the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, and later the Huffington Post, attended high school in Mountain View and graduated from San Francisco State University.

In 2008, he was a member of the Washington Post reporting team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for its coverage of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech University.

His first-person article in the New York Times last June brought his particular immigration situation and the similar circumstances of millions of other residents to the forefront of political debate.

Since announcing that he was an undocumented immigrant, Vargas has founded Define American, a new campaign that seeks to change the conversation around immigration reform. 

His experience is a common story for thousands of students nationally, and the more than 12 million immigrants in the U.S. who are undocumented. 

Vargas was born and raised in Philippines until age 12 when his mother sent him to live with his grandparents in Silicon Valley. He writes that at age 16, "I rode my bike to the DMV to get my driver's permit. I brought my green card with me. The woman at the DMV looked at it, leaned over and whispered, 'This is fake. Don't come back here again.'

"I went home and confronted my grandfather. He confirmed it. That was the first time I realized I am an undocumented immigrant — what some people call an 'illegal.'"

An estimated 65,000 students graduate from U.S. high schools each year without legal citizenship or residency.

The César Chávez Convocation honors the memory of César Chávez, his achievements, commitment to social justice and civil rights, his efforts to cultivate grassroots leaders, and his successful formation of the United Farmworkers Union (UFW). The convocation's goal is to provide a platform to engage the UCSC campus and Santa Cruz community in a dialogue on Latino leadership and social justice issues.

Past keynote speakers have been Dolores Huerta (2004), legendary union organizer and advocate for women and the poor; playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, and director Luis Valdez (2005); Arturo Rodriquez, UFW president  (2006),; executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor,  Maria Elena Durazo (2007); performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña (2008); Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center (2009);  María Hinojosa, journalist and managing editor of Latino USA (2010); and Father Gregory Boyle, executive director of Homeboy Industries (2011). 

This year's convocation is produced by College Ten Co-Curricular Programs, El Centro Chicano-Latino Resource Center, and the Asian/Pacific Islander Resource Center and is held in collaboration with Asian-American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

It is sponsored by: UCSC Alumni Association, Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Community and Resource Empowerment-(e2), and co-sponsored by:  Educational Opportunity Programs, Division of Graduate Studies, Campus Life and Dean of Students, Student Union Assembly, Oakes, Cowell, Merrill, Porter, Kresge, and Stevenson colleges.