My name in Jose Antonio Vargas. In the summer of 2011, following the failure of Congress to pass the DREAM Act, I decided to "come out" to the world as an undocumented immigrant in hopes that it would inspire the country to reconsider how immigrants are perceived and discussed. At first I revealed my status to three close friends -- Jehmu Greene, Alicia Menendez, and Jake Brewer -- and decided to create Define American.
Following that, I decided to share my story with the country. I published an essay in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/magazine/my-life-as-an-undocumented-immigrant.html)detailing my life as an undocumented immigrant. In telling a very personal and specific story -- my journey of being sent from the Philippines to America in search of a better life, graduating from public schools and landing jobs at news organizations such as The Washington Post and The Huffington Post -- I aimed to illuminate a greater universal truth about our broken immigration system (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2117243,00.html).
The immigration system is broken and so is how we talk about it.
Now years in the making, this broken system impacts millions of immigrants who live in the shadows of a country we love and call home. The dysfunction and inaction also impacts countless honest American citizens -- from principals to pastors, coaches to classmates -- who have answered a moral calling in helping immigrants in various sectors of society. Together, undocumented immigrants like me and the citizens who aid us are increasingly telling the truth about our broken system. And by telling the truth -- by telling and sharing our stories -- we are standing up for justice, and for each other.
Now's the time to change the story on immigration.
We're at a critical moment in how we talk about immigration in this country, and we think everyone has something important to say. Define American's request is simple: Let's talk. We want to encourage authentic conversations about how immigration is part of all our lives as Americans - whether it be at the dinner table or the front page of the New York Times.
I'm a little nervous.
Over the last 19 months, I've shared my story and the story of undocumented Americans everywhere with millions of people. But tomorrow morning, I'll be sharing it in testimony before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee.
The people who can actually change law will be listening to me. To us!
I honestly never thought we'd come this far.
Because of you, and because of the millions of Americans stepping up to reframe and rethink how we think about American immigration, I have the privilege and honor of having this conversation with the United States Senate.
My request is that you join us online during the hearing, starting at 9:30am Eastern time:
Click here to Watch the Senate Judiciary Hearing on Immigration
It's also no coincidence that the hearing will be coming the night after the State of the Union speech by President Obama tonight. We'll be watching and paying special attention to what he has to say.
Follow @defineamerican (http://links.causes.com/s/clIN5O?r=UEDo) for comments on #SOTU, and for live updates from the hearing tomorrow morning.
After all these events in Washington this week, we hope there's a message that all of us can share across the country. Immigration is really about ALL of us.
It's not only a Latino issue or an Asian issue; it's an American issue. It's a gay issue. It's both about those who have "papers" and those who don't. Immigration is America's history and it is our future. Diversity is our destiny.
This simple message is being heard because of you, so please tune in and keep engaging in these important conversations on Causes. http://links.causes.com/s/clIN5Z?r=UEDo (http://links.causes.com/s/clIN5Z?r=UEDo)