New documentary further humanizes immigration reform debate

Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration rights activist and self-declared undocumented immigrant, has made a documentary about his experiences, and he recently announced that he has sold the rights to CNN Films.

Vargas’ story
In the movie “Documented,” Vargas tells the story of how he was brought to the U.S. illegally as child from his home in the Philippines. Growing up in California, he was ushered through the system with the help of friends, family, teachers and school administrators, eventually getting a driver’s license and gaining entrance to college before becoming a reporter for The Washington Post.

Vargas began filming just before he announced his status in an editorial for The New York Times, spending the next two years documenting everything he went through as he worked toward gaining U.S. citizenship. He also incorporated stories of other undocumented immigrants, many of whom would benefit from the federal DREAM Act, which is currently stalled in Congress, along with other immigration reform legislation.

“It is imperative that we remind people what is actually at stake and that we humanize as much as possible a highly political, highly partisan issue,” Vargas said in a statement. “A film to me has the potential to not only change policy but to change people’s minds and hearts.”

Vargas has turned his attention from journalism to the immigration reform debate full-time. Along with the working on the documentary, he also heads up Define America, an advocacy group that is planning a campaign around the film’s release, which is set for the spring of 2014. Vargas also hopes to screen the film in theaters in states like Texas that are grappling with the nation’s broken immigration system.

One of the most affecting scenes from the movie is an interview with Vargas’ mother, who he hasn’t seen in 20 years, in the Philippines. He had to send the camera crew there without him since he wouldn’t have been allowed back into the U.S. due to his undocumented status.