SPECIAL PANEL: Coming Out as Undocumented



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>> LISA STONE: Hey, everyone.
We will probably get started in one or two minutes just as an FYI.
>> LISA STONE: Hi, everybody. How are you doing?
Welcome to our panel. My name is Lisa Stone, one of the cofounders of BlogHer and I am sincerely excited to bring this panel today to BlogHer '11. We have invited today five people, one of them is en route from the traffic to her home, Adriana Maestas from the Politics Blog, who will join in panel of experts. Politically. Personally. Legislatively, this is a topic that couldn't matter for more a town like San Diego, but it's affecting everyone from my parents who teach in Omaha, Nebraska and those of us in urban centers who hire I can tell you the immigration issue is big. I will ask the panelists to introduce themselves and kick off a great conversation lead by the short film that brought us here. Jose Antonio Vargas, will you kick it off?
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: It's great to be here, and I met Lisa two years ago at the Huffington Post. I am a firm believer in how technology is changing not just politics, but society in general so a great meeting. So my name is Jose. Been a journalist for 12 or 13 years. And then about a month and a half ago I published a story in the "New York Times" magazine coming out as a undocumented immigrant and at the same time started an organization called Define America. So we are here to talk about immigration.
>> PAT HYLAND: I am Pat Hyland, formerly the principal of the high school where Jose was a student. I have been with him through this journey since he was late 15 or maybe early 16 years old.
I am a dean of students at Foothill College.
>> I am Jehmu Greene. And as Jose mentioned, I am one of the cofounders of Define American which is what in the past month I have enjoyed spending most of my time doing, but I also get to give my political opinion on what is happening in D.C. on Fox News every week and that provides an interesting conversation as a progressive on Fox and every day trying talk to people whose hearts and minds can change talk to independents and moderate conservatives. And a lot of what we are doing with Define American is in that same vein, trying to change the conversation from being so polarized and on the fringes and really coming together in the middle and I look forward to having this conversation.
>> ERICA HOLLOWAY: I am Erica Holloway. I moved here from Michigan and working as a journalist. Before I was a print journalist, I was a reporter for seven years and a general assignment means covering everything from parades to picnics to local politics and it was local politics that caught my attention. I started working as a communications director after I got burned out on the beat and started working for State Senator David Hollingsworth and working for San Diego representative, Slater Price. And what I found was working in government is a frustration, but it is very rewarding but what I wanted to do is get involved in the politics at the grassroots level. I left public office and started working as a media consultant for media campaigns. I am a consultant to the Republican party of San Diego. I am also involved in the Public Relations Society of America and one of the board members here in San Diego County. And I write for two blogs with multiple handles. One is a San Diego Rostra, which is local and the statewide blog the Flash Report and also write a personal blog. I found myself being a blogger. I didn't know that was in the future for me, but I found I really missed the writing aspect journalism. Not just the coverage aspect of writing about politics, but are the writing of it for just the love and so if I had to do my journalism career all over again I probably would have focused on politics so I am happy to be here.
>> LISA STONE: I am glad to be here. And I just checked with Adriana and she will be here. She is downstairs. Let's watch the video that re kicked off this conversation nationwide. Hit the play button for you. And I think we are the audio hooked up.
[ Video ]
[ Applause ]
>> LISA STONE: So Jose, first before we begin, I will ask you how it is you are sitting here right now, having made that video? But first, Adrianna, introduce yourself.
>> ADRIANNA: I am a blogger and I belong to the BlogHer network. I was a little late in traffic, but happy to be here.
>> LISA STONE: And you offer the Latina blog.
>> ADRIANNA: I blog about a issues pertaining to the latino community not so much exclusively on the Latino community.
>> LISA STONE: It's against the law to live in the United States without legal status or stay beyond the limits of your visa. The most superficial description of immigration law, but I will lead this panel through a broad ranging political and aspects of it. One the things I want mention up front we have a great diversity of opinions on this panel. And BlogHer is nonpartisan. We will be opening up this discussion for questions immediately. So take it away. I want to see hands, but I get the first one and that is: Has a mother myself I look at and you I think about this video and think to myself, how is it you are not deported?
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: That's a question that everybody, of course, asks me.
I was at the Starbucks the other day and a young woman is talking about the "Colbert Report" she watched it and, how are you still here? I live three doors away. I am still here and glad to be here still. When I decided to do this I knew I basically have treated this as the biggest news story I worked on. Just happens to involve me intimately. So I must have talked to a total of maybe more than 30 lawyers now to figure out exactly what the repercussions were legally.
Surprisingly, no one from the government contacted me. So I wrote in 4,000 word article, I am a writer and very deliberate in what I do and I wrote it in such a way that there were a bunch of red flags. And I knew it was inevitable that I won't supposed to have the driver's license and revoked just give it a really big hug those of you with driver's licenses. So I am traveling because the Philippines embassy gave a passport. This is something I can't overstate enough. I didn't do this just for me. It's very important to realize and I am just one of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country and we live, we are interwoven into every part of society and if there's anything we have done Define American in the past month and a half we heard that was just one four minute video and we have heard from maybe 800 people writing us directly and telling us their own immigration story and how complicated it is and what they are going through. As journalist exploring that and writing solely about immigration.
>> LISA STONE: Thanks, Jose. And first I want to give you some statistics: The 11 million you quote is from the Center for Immigration Studies, considered to be the definitive source. From 2008. Ranges are often given in to 20 million. Undocumented. The breakdown about 56% from Mexico, 22% from other Latin American countries, 13% from Asia and 3% from Africa and the rest of the world. How did you become involved until Define America and what is your role in the site?
>> I became involved the moment Jose asked for my help. Many years ago about Rock the Boat an organization I was at when I was that generation. I had so much respect for his credibility as a journalist and having gotten to know him as a friend, how can you not step up and help after you hear that story? I think everyone in this room and unfortunately many people in this country seem to have forgotten we all have our immigration story. And my immigration story starts with my papers who immigrated from Liberia in their 20s and wanted to come to grad school on a student visa and when the visa ran out, they stayed. As Lisa mentioned, one of the many ways that undocumented immigrants have found themselves here is when that visa runs out, they had 3 kids, there was a war going on in their homeland of Liberia. So as one elementary student my mom would go to the work in the morning and come back and say I can't go back to my job tomorrow, because INS will do a raid and we wouldn't have as much food for that week or not buy something for the clarinet or whatever the school activity was we needed the resources for.
So my immigration stories through my parents clearly had a significant impact on me and I think unfortunately, the media was polarized this conversation so much and being a part of the media, I felt more than compelled just very strong responsibility to the try to elevate the conversation so we can all remember our own immigration stories whether it started with a student visa or left with a Communist country to come to the U.S., which was illegal, I think. So many people have forgotten that just the act of being undocumented and the unfortunate ways so many undocumented immigrants are referred to as illegal or illegals, we have to remember our own individual immigration stories and those of our parents and grandparents. And became before us, because not everyone came here legally, but the contributions immigrants make are absolutely what make it country great. When you look at the entrepreneurship brings to America is what makes this country great. We have to remember that message as well. The only reason other the only superpower on the planet is because of immigrants have delivered.
>> LISA STONE: Before I ask you Pat why you helped Jose I want to ask in the audience, does anybody here know have a family member who is undocumented? Anybody? A show of hands? More than you may think. Okay. Any of you first generation? Documented? First generation. Second generation? Third generation? Tenth generation? Okay I see you all right. Thank you. Pat, why did you help this boy? And how representative is Jose's position as an undocumented student in your experience as you are running the school as a principal. Like how many kids like you run across?
>> PAT HYLAND: The number has geographic influence, as you know. At the school where Jose was, I would estimate somewhere around 16% of the student population was undocumented. Something of that amount.
So that school was about 1800 to 2,000, so you can do the numbers on that.
But it's my involvement is if you are in education, you react to things very emotionally a lot more than you do intellectually. Despite what we are supposed to be doing I guess. Jose he's extraordinary, but he's not unique.
In the sense of the students who walk through the door, they have needs and secrets and all kinds of things they need help with. And Jose was by no means the first undocumented student that told me he or she was in the system and by no means the only one who was fearful. So our job as educators, I think, is to find a place where they can be safe, whoever the student is, and whatever the reasons. I don't know if Jose wanted the conversation to turn this way, but the first time he came out to me was as being gay, which was such a stressful thing but he held the other secret even longer. And if you think of the magnitude of those things, the fact he thought it was okay to tell this one story, but not okay to telling the other, just think about the gravity of that situation.
Like so many educators, there's a kid in front of you and what are you going do? It's a kid that needs something and it doesn't matter what color they are, or what the situation is, you are there to care and you are there to help them be the best they can be.
And he was well on his way. He's an extraordinary student, as you can imagine. And was so outgoing that, of course, we will help him do whatever to achieve his potential; the sad thing is so many kids reach the fear point and they stop Jose just went for it and now setting the to open for other folks, but thinking of the students I helped or others helped get to a certain point and at that point, we could do very little else. That's the frustrating part, I think, of the conversation.
So he's so darned cute; you have to just kind of help him.
>> LISA STONE: Thank, Pat. Before I give it over to Adrianna and Erica, I wanted to ask, would you mind moving the laptop has a slide on it with the Twitter handles. If you open it up and switch over to the PowerPoint you will be able to I don't PC anymore. I lost the language, but if you could move it to that, then I see some active Twitter rivers in the audience.
>> BH hashtag coming out.
>> LISA STONE: Erica and Adrianna you call come from the blogging world we hear about this personal story from Jose, Define American has been on every major news channel and show and I think it will define the debate in 2012 and I want to ask from your two perspective's starting with you, Erica and you may want to reference this blog post you wrote yesterday and it would be great to hear what you think of conversation and what you think of this framing of the discussion?
>> First, if you haven't read Jose's story in the "New York Times," do it. It's moving. If you don't cry, you are stone hearted. Being in politics and looking at the immigration debate that we had in 2008, there was a lot of discussion because John McCain being in a border state wanted to talk about it and it was big issue for him and he wanted to have more the DREAM Act enactment and the President we had before Obama, Bush, was a very big proponent of the DREAM Act. And it stalled and now it's a dead bill, which Jose is out there crusading for. Recently uprising immigration has kind of fallen by the wayside and now Obama has low poll ratings the immigration community asking him tough questions: What happened to your promise to resurrect the DREAM Act and what we are supposed to do legislatively? What Jose experiences highlights what is wrong with legislation and what's wrong with him.
[ Applause ]
>> ERICA HOLLOWAY: What's wrong with government is it sets up people like Jose to fail. Living as a legal resident is easier than becoming a citizen. And the reason why is because when you go into that room and she knows this and she hears the stories he hears the stories, when you go into the room and being investigated and you are going through the process, they say it's so easy. Fill out the form, prove you have been a resident for five years and proved you lived here for a long time and job and all these things and you will become a citizen. Sounds easy. I worked in government for seven years and it's not easy. Anything can come along and yank that residency and you will leave. Doesn't matter if you have children in this country or got married or have a house or good member of the community or a talented journalist, you will get deported. That's not the way it's supposed to work. We are supposed to encourage people to become citizens and stay here. The way the system works. I read this sad story a few years ago that Arlen Specter got involved in and became a national story, a couple from the Philippines, he was a doctor, and he had two children, three children, and community doctor beloved. He was a huge humanitarian and taken slum areas of the neighborhoods and resurrected them and refurbished them
>> LISA STONE: Erica, I have to interrupt, because I don't know how the Twitter handle for Jose could be so wrong, but it's definitely Jose's writing not whatever that is. That probably got copied over from another session. I want to thank Cindy for fact checking the Twitter handles. I beg your pardon.
>> ERICA HOLLOWAY: No problem. He and his wife always planned on becoming citizens and they had legal residency. They started the process of citizenship. When they were being all the paperwork was being rifled through and Homeland Security discovered they had been married in the Philippines. What happened was both of the families were naturalized and brought with them and when this he moved here, they could not got married, the families forbid it and couldn't get married. Fine. We will go back to country of origin and get married again. Homeland Security found out they were married in the Philippines and you lied on the paperwork and that was it. It wasn't it will they called Arlen Specter and got the lawyer and the advocate and did homework and how did we do this wrong? And the answer was, you didn't. You didn't do it wrong. You said you got married here. You did. So only because somebody got involved in the government level and said this is wrong and a this is a good person we cannot send back to the Philippines after living here for 25 years. Then they got a stay. There aren't is enough congressmen and Senators to help that problem for every person who faces deportation is that's what is wrong with the system. I agree with Jose, it's weird he's sitting here, but it's unlikely he will be deported because he doesn't fit the profile of the person we wouldn't want to lose someone who is talent the, but we also don't want to encourage that. We rather fix the system or I would rather fix the system so someone like Jose says I was a kid and I didn't know, now I want to become a citizen. That should become an option.
>> LISA STONE: Question. And then I want to get to you Adrianna. One word answer: Yes or no: Do you support the DREAM Act?
>> Yes.
>> LISA STONE: You support it?
>> I support it.
>> LISA STONE: Adrianna, tell us why you support
>> I support it because from the perspective of an educator. And actually initially, I don't know I have to admit I was initially a little uncomfortable with it. As I got more to the point that it is a waste to invest so much in somebody like Jose only to turn them way whether it's right after high school or after college. Through my blogging I just sort of I don't see immigration as a Latino issue and that's something I want to make clear up front, but a lot of people tend to make it that way because it effects so many Latino people.
So the more I learn the more I blogged about it and I just sort of became involved in it that way. I most definitely support the DREAM Act. And definitely support efforts that would help with family reunification, which is the issue you were getting at, too. So I tend to think of it more broadly and it touches everybody. Immigration is an American issue not specific to any ethnic group. And I think that we need to look at it that way.
>> LISA STONE: Thank you, Jose. Let's starting taking some questions.
And by the way, should we just take the microphone off the stand and start passing it around or I can repeat the questions? Either way.
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: That's a great question.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: How surprised are you if people don't follow your reporting that you are not Latino
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: I spent a month in Iowa it's my name. The Philippines, 1521, the Spanish people came. It's a long they cultivated. It's a long Wikipedia entry. I was on the subway on the F line in New York and there was a woman; she must have been Dominican or a she just stared at me and El Chino and she thanked me and said she was undocumented. But this idea, there are certain laws in the country. In the State of Alabama, even worse than Arizona, it's actually a crime. You can actually get fined or arrested for driving somebody who is undocumented or for living in the same house. You could have a family in which the wife is an American citizen born here has a kid born here as a naturalized U.S. Citizen thanks to the 14th Amendment. It's a mixed status family. Which in many ways tells you how mature and how long this problem has been. In many ways, my story is instructive because it represents how bad the problem really is. If there was a way for me to get in some sort of line, believe me I will be there with popcorn. Just tell me where to go, how much I have to pay in terms of a fine, whatever that is, but tell me do something. And that to the conversation about the DREAM Act. Thankfully everybody is supportive of it. Not a piece of legislation. It's so broken where we have states like Alabama and Georgia and Arizona, of course, passing laws that are not just anti immigrant, they read anti Latino. I wonder what would happen as a undocumented person looking the way I do, I really don't look all that Latino. So I can just drive by and Montgomery and be totally fine. We are really at a kind of a unprecedented moment in this country saying this from somebody who covered the election for two years. We are living in a time in the country where everybody feels like a minority group. I met people in Arkansas and middle class white people who feel their country has gone away. Which is really interesting, but at the same time we have a minority President. So the 2012 election is going to be about the evolution of who we think is really American? We have a President whose birth certificate is in question. Jehmu and how thinking about this and how to do we elevate it and reframe it and it's our goal.
>> LISA STONE: Any other questions? Grace has offered to wrangle the mic.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: I am Shannon. I am curious if in your Define America work at all if it comes up at all, the problem that queer sometimes have with? I am lesbian and partnered with another U.S. citizen, fortunately but my children's godfather partnered, are married with the opposite sex to stay in the country. Sometimes queer couples will do that whom can support whom and what kind of people we want? The godfather in question is a medical doctor from the Ivy League.
>> I think someone from marry Jose.
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: Four of the girls offered, but I just denied this was actually a big riff between my grandfather and I because the solution was to get married and when I came out as gay, he said what are you doing? The plan was to and as somebody who is openly gay, I am kind of really in the tough spot. In New York, New York State is now allowing same sex Marriage, right? One the friends dearest straight friends, I came out him about this undocumented status in March. His first instinct was: Let's go to Iowa and get married. It's sweet. But I said it doesn't matter. It's state only, and immigration is Federal.
As undocumented and a gay person there's a thing called the Defense of Marriage Act. Marriage is only between a man and a woman and the government recognizes it as such. In the DREAM Act community, a lot of the leaders are openly gay. I am going to write about it so nobody write about it.
>> LISA STONE: Adrianna said something interesting on the phone. You said I really think of this as a civil rights issue and I wonder if you could talk about this a little bit.
>> ADRIANNA: For only so long you can keep somebody like Jose and other people in his situation, effectively disenfranchised, you can try to go around the system with fake documents, but you are not supposed to and you run all kinds of risks of doing so. So I think a lot of people are starting to see this as a civil rights issue. How can we as a society allow each like this to continue to work here? Obviously, we want them to work and we have them working at all levels, like whether they are professional writers like Jose, or they are people who clean your house, who tends to your yard do your nails or whatever, we have created a need for them and the services they provide yet there's in weird standard, okay, but we don't want to you to become a citizen or vote or we don't it wouldn't you to plant roots here. So I sort of think that and like he said and and I have noticed for a while for the past year I kind of noticed too, the leaders in the movement are gay, I am queer and undocumented. And this is my story. The way I see that the undocumented movement is making ripping a little page out of the gay movement that happened 20 to 40 years ago when people started to come out. That's now I see it and it's been effective. When you see somebody it personalized it. You have to pay attention.
>> LISA STONE: Interesting. Jehmu?
>> What is happening right now when you look at the law in Arizona, where you can be picked up for driving while brown. When you look at the crops are rotting in Alabama because they have just passed some really egregious laws. In my home state of Texas, we had a state legislator put forward a bill where it would be illegal to help or sorry not help, but employ an undocumented immigrant except if that undocumented immigrant was your nanny or housekeeper. Not a joke. The states are now starting the pass these ridiculously aggressive laws based on fear. Fear of losing their American identity. Fear of the demographic shifts happening in this country. Again, this is not an issue the states should be engaged in. This is an issue the federal government has absolute responsibility and an obligation to lead on and George Bush attempted to make it happen and was pushed back by the fringe elements of the Republican parties and John McCain clearly we have seen President Obama not able to move the issue forward. Really to point the finger at the governmental entity that has failed the most and that's where we have to draw a lot of this attention to say, it's time for them to step up and whether you are on the left or the right, it has to be fixed.
>> LISA STONE: Questions next, but Jose wants to say something quickly.
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: One of the best articles written so far focus on Pat and Rich Fischer because right now in the State of Alabama and Georgia, principals will get asked to check the immigration status of the children in schools. This puts an incredible toll what are teachers supposed do if someone is undocumented. Here in California cannot do anything, right?
>> PAT HYLAND: That's not what most people go into education for. They don't sign on to be INS agents. I don't know that it will cause a mass migration out of profession, but you will see something close to anarchy. They will not do it. A kid is kid and a child is in need and the whole concept scarcity is what's going on in my mind. I read so many blog posts that Jose has taken away a job are you joking? If you were that smart, you would have been there.
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: When I got the "Washington Post" internship in 2003, Pat was my first call. My question was, am I taking somebody else's spot? She laughed at me. What are you talking about. You earned this just keep going.
Of course, like when someone asked me the other day why I did this. A lot of reasons, but one of the reasons is I would hate for some kid sitting out there in some middle school or high school, it's hard enough to get through school we all know that and have seen the shows it's hard we lived it. To have this on your back the entire time. One the biggest ironies is dream I am a writer, not saving anybody else's life. Doctors:
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Melanie from the Blog I am curious to know if you attended participated in higher education and we know a lot of students that could go that have limited access to resources and federal grants. Do you have obstacles or suggestions for educators
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: I graduated high school in 2000. A year before the DREAM Act. One the sponsors of the DREAM Act. Like Pat said the dirty little secret how will he get the college? Pat?
>> PAT HYLAND: Between the superintendent and I, we had some connections and live in a community that's either haves or have nots and we were able to connect Jose with a have who saw the promise in Jose. I don't think he knew originally Jose was undocumented, but he was willing to put this deserving person through college. There are extraordinary people who see the promise in people and will help them get there and Jim strand is his name and been there for Jose for years.
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: And Governor Jerry Brown just passed one half of the DREAM Act and the question there is back to what Jehmu was saying we need to connect the dots. And blogging to me the beauty of blogging is you are talking to your own communities. I read Erica wrote a great blog thanks for writing that.
>> I just got a comment from a Pulitzer Prize award winner.
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: All of us have our own channels and networks and it's empowering that we can empower people to think about things in a different way. Because if we just rely on the mainstream media really failed the way they covered the issue, because it's covered and it a definitely political football a lot of false equivalences and inaccuracies. I have been paying taxes and Social Security since I was years old. I was having a bad day in my apartment and in front of my apartment were two homeless people sleeping there. I don't want to sound bitter, but I was thinking, I wish they had passports.
Sometimes, they have more rights than I do. It's tough. It's been really tough.
>> LISA STONE: I need to jump in; we have so many hands for questions. I liked your post too, Erica. It's called an "Accomplished Fraud" on SD Rostra. It has a very interesting question framework around this whole issue, so thank you.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Aspen Baker from Exhale. I wanted to offer working with women with abortions conversations in our community about the theory of coming out as a model for social change.
And we have started to really look at the things that have to be in place in somebody's life. Both personally and within their community for the conditions to be available for somebody to feel like they can come out about either being gay, and we have been able to sort of watch this experience of yours and a lot of the dreamers as well unfold around being undocumented. And seeing the many of the things that are in common and sort of what women who have had abortions have as well as or don't have; you have done such a really excellent job of getting very specific about the things that have been in place, especially the support network that existed in your life.
And that's been really useful and educational and inspiring. And it's helping us really develop how we are going to work woman to navigate this for themselves.
>> LISA STONE: I think that's a wonderful affirmation. And the exhale blog has been fantastic for so many women.
Grace is coming around. Working the mic.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Allison. And I am all for everything, change. So I wanted to hear your thoughts a little bit about what you imagine beyond this happen change. Once the change comes, what do you see happening, what you hope you will see in society and how you will think it will change, if legislation changed I am not sure what you see beyond?
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: I love Twitter. I was on Twitter yesterday. And I did a follow Friday on I sent a tweet about all my conservative sources that I respect. I did a tweet on five people three of whom are on the RNC and one of them was President Bush's first Blogger. Patrick the day the article ran, Patrick said, I don't care what you think about immigration, I know this guy. Read the story. It was kind of a crazy day, but one the days, Jose dude I think we can make a difference with this. I know this guy.
He's not just some I know this guy. And to your question, and again, this is I spent two years on the campaign trail traveling around the country and back to the comment about coming out, I don't think there's anything quintessential about coming out this is what we do in this country every day. What is out to you has been outside to me. And living with this for many years. I think we force each other at this point to actually hear each other out. And this is where, I think I love for Erica to comment on this,ing and Jehmu and I is a progressive activist working at Fox News we can't just talk to the people who believe what I I have to go out to Arkansas and Kentucky and Iowa where a spent a month in the caucuses and actually look at them in the eye and say, that my existence doesn't threaten yours. That I want the same thing that you want. I just want to provide for myself and contribute to society and let's talk and fix this. Let's actually talk. No more theatrics and this just let's throw the football around and see where it lands and see how mad we can get at each other. While kids and people suffer. So how can we engage politicians who are not quite there yet.
>> LISA STONE: An excellent question for Jennifer Pozner who has a question of her own probably. She works in the media all the time.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: I am much more I am are a journalist first, as opposed to a political policy wonk so my question is more about how to change and engage media messages as Jose said we know that the way that media cover this issue has been extremely problematic for years. So my segue to the point you were saying is my question is basically about the narrative of immigration and how it has been shifting through Define American and; for example, color lines and applied research center dropped the "I" word, people are not illegal. But still as a feminine media access I direct a news one of the things we have seen in coverage of immigration for years is that the main narratives of the immigration tend to be from a male voice. Finally with Jose's. Narrative is shifting to a positive understanding of immigration through a male voice. The times that we see immigration stories through a female voice, tend to be about women who cross borders to quote unquote, drop anchor babies, to game the system. Or women who have somehow gamed the system through sex work. We are talk about objectified my question to anyone on the panel, but particularly to Jehmu around media, can we as we talk about the issues going forward locate women as a core constituency and now we do it each time to understand every issue is an women issue and women immigrants have some of the same issues but specific to their gendered state.
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: I will let Jehmu jump into that. I said we are going to BlogHer. That's one way we will address that. Jehmu?
>> When we sat down to look at everything you pointed out as far as how the media reformed on the story. Clear two communities to talk to. Women and young people. Being here is one of the top priorities of Define American because everyone in this room's ability to help us continue in conversation with other women.
I think when you look at the press aspect of it, one of the great things that Jose brings to the table is his ability to talk directly to media professionals from the inside and so we are going to launch a very specific and targeted press challenge to media outlets, to individual journalists to bloggers, to address the various use you talked about Jennifer. We should not be referring to an individual as being an illegal. The fact we have gone from a place in our country where a first generation American is now referred to as an anchor Baby I would now be an anchor Baby. We look forward to Jose being out there moving from a journalist it a advocate and launch this press challenge in the fall. I wanted to touch briefly on the legislation question, though. Because it's been really great being marketed to by all the wonderful sponsors who are here. And I look at the immigration issue that the DREAM Act is that's the brand that is really hot and really sexy and something most people whether you are on the left or the right and you can see the value in it. These kids might not have had anything with doing here, but if the DREAM Act passes won't solve our immigration issue in our country. There are studies out there that show 67% of young people who are eligible for the DREAM Act won't actually even make it through to getting on the pathway to citizenship. The DREAM Act is such a small part of this equation. From a language standpoint, some people on the right don't like the concept of comprehensive immigration reform and think it's a code word for amnesty. The last amnesty was done by Ronald Reagan and that's how my parents became citizen. We cannot only look at what is hot and the sizzle part of the immigration debate. As we start these conversations and ask the questions that need to be asked we have to understand it's bigger than the DREAM Act and language again Jennifer is absolutely important is what is driving the fear and driving are the legislation in states. That's what is driving the ridiculous increase in violence against immigrants, not just in border states, but all over this country.
>> LISA STONE: Erica?
>> ERICA HOLLOWAY: How many of you vote?
That's how you get power. How you get power. Reason why Latinos are covered under the Voter Act is because they are an underrepresented voting bloc and that should change. The reason they don't get representation to issues important to them is they don't vote.
They should be the biggest voting bloc, but I tell you something Jennifer you know who is the biggest voting bloc in this country? Women. So if women Latinos came together, and we had a higher voting bloc of Latino women, we would see a change. That's how people get elected to office to represent people is the only way to got involved in a conversation and the only way the media will pay attention to the conversation is those people have power. They are the 800 pound gorillas. Arlen Specter getting involved in one case had a stay. Just one. What if we had people out there who were advocates for people facing deportation, wrongfully throughout Congress, through the Senate, because we voted them in. That's how the change happens.
>> To piggyback on what you were saying. Voting is a great civic obligation that, I think, of course, everybody who is able to vote should, but it goes even beyond that and the other part of the equation at least in terms of immigration advocacy is money. So I often wonder what parents who send a remittance back to their country, every other month I won't send this and stead I will have a little campaign kitty and start to support people who support the DREAM Act. It's a weird hypothetical
>> LISA STONE: Have you asked your community to do that?
>> I haven't asked, but I know I am not first to think about this in this context. But if you cannot vote and you are here and you can also vote with your money. So it's like should I give even if I had to work for subminimum wage, could I set aside a little bit of money? That's something the anti immigration people do and effectively, whenever the DREAM Act comes up for a vote they will call the campaign offices in addition to the regular office and I am getting ready to make my contributions and I hear you will support in DREAM Act, but if you do I won't give you money. I wonder if people sort of thought about it in terms of the dollars and also too the dollar benefit.
>> LISA STONE: Interesting. Pat you wanted to comment?
>> PAT HYLAND: One brief thought that I have is asking the least powerful and the least able to be the power behind this movement isn't what's going to work. I claim whether I want to or not I have white privilege. I need to use that for people of color. I need to use it for immigration. I need to use what I have been given.
>> LISA STONE: Do you think Jehmu knew about Pat specifically when talking about must do to at lunch. It was written for you. By the way, I should mention, it's we have probably time for power or so more questions. I think.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: I am Cheryl Contee of Jack and Jill Politics. Lisa, you have done a great job moderating the panel. Helped them launch the campaign online. And I remember in the months coming up to the announcement there was a lot of fear. There were people well known people who I won't name who distanced themselves from Jose and didn't want to participate weren't supportive. Were like, oh, that might be a problem for me and I have been struck by the fact that even though the week that the announcement came out, the story was the most shared story on the Internet on the entire Internet. Not just not U.S. people really embraced and gripped by Jose's story. But I expected other undocumented immigrants who are prominent to come out and hasn't really happened to my knowledge. So my question to the panel is: There really is this climate of fear, I think, that has arisen around immigrants and helping immigrants or even talking in a real way about solutions. Both among undocumented immigrants themselves, but also those who know them. And are in a position to help. How do we overcome that fear? And get to the next level?
>> PAT HYLAND: One thing to say about that it was ironic the day after the story came out they find you. And interestingly, my employer panicked. And told me to go home. And look into my personnel file to see if I committed any felonies and be dismissed.
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: That won't happen and if it does I will go over there and protest. They don't believe it.
>> PAT HYLAND: That's the level of panic that this can bring to the surface. Now, obviously, there are teams that will fight to the death for that sort of thing, but it caused me a moment of panics too and a few tears. We are over the hump right now I think is what it will take is people to hold hands and get through that.
>> But the fear is really and for good reason in San Diego they closed down a bakery last year because the bakery was employing unknowingly employing undocumented. So the fear is real. In China they pay you to whistle blow.
They just don't need if it's going to be them. I think the and it was a huge controversy when it happened last year too everybody said, they can't be the only one in town. We are in San Diego.
But it caused people to really freak out. I thought, this guy lost everything. Lost his whole likelihood of. And he had to go to jail and he had to pay fines. And in fact his family and that's here.
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: Let me say thanks, Cheryl, for the great question. So the emails. Fission is helping us so thanks for that. A ramped up version of Define America.
>> When?
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: In the next few weeks. We will let you know as soon as possible, Lisa. It's hard reading emails to people who said I wish I could do this but I can't.
Because of this happen reason and because of that reason. I was in a very I am and was in a very unique position, but because I am from the media and I knew I was going to get reaction from the D.C. politicos, what? He was at the White House, how did this happen? I knew that would happen. So and Jehmu has been so good. There's a transition between what I was as a journalist and who I am becoming now. But the line is I am a storyteller. One last thing by the way, I want to make sure I say is this is the actually the 3 of us have been on a panel together. And it wasn't for the two women so Pat, who has been some sort of hell with me it's been funny because we are both funny people and we crack each other up all the time. I can only imagine how much stress I have add to her life all these years. We met when I was 15 or 16. Jehmu it's been an incredibly disappointing process. So since I am at a BlogHer conference, when you honor me or what I do, you are honoring them. So thank you for that.
[ Applause ]
>> The fear is real and with a what we have do is personalize it. And what we are asking of everyone here who is paying attention to the campaign is to answer some questions. Because when you personalize it, that's when you can see the beauty in Jose and the decisions that Pat made. What would you do in you found out your daughter's best friend was undocumented? What you would do you if you found out your favorite coworker was undocumented. In that moment what's what your personal choice. Not just from seeing the images beaten into our heads and the border not being safe whether Jose is asked when I crossed the border. What? He's from the Philippines.
>> JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: It was Continental Airlines.
>> If for some long the media has defined what American is as polarized and as members of the media as everyone in here is if we change that definition to something more holistic. Pat is like a member of the underground railroad, to make her contribution to a system that was broken. If I could ask anything of everyone in this room it would be to ask your community of those same questions.
>> LISA STONE: And we are out of time.
[ Applause ]
So I will suggest this: I can't imagine a better lead in to the keynote in fact we have here in the room amazing Carol Jenkins. Who will be speaking on that. Since we have heard so eloquently.
Should we just let you guys come talk to these folks in person? Give time to time to talk to. One more round of applause for the speakers.
[ Applause ]