November 15, 2018  

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Immigration Focus of Final University Forum of fall 2018 Semester

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Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas, a leading immigration rights activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, will be the guest speaker for the conclusion of the fall 2018 University of Southern Mississippi University Forum series when he presents “Define America: My Life As An Undocumented Immigrant” Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium on the Hattiesburg campus. Admission is free and the public is invited.

Vargas was part of a team of journalists at The Washington Post that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for its coverage of the massacre at Virginia Tech University that left 32 dead. Three years later, the award-winning journalist risked his career and the life he had created in the U.S. when he revealed he had migrated from the Philippines as a child without proper documentation. Since then, he has been a  prominent advocate for “undocumented” citizens—a term he has championed as a replacement for “illegal immigrants”—and a strong proponent of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act.

Vargas wrote, produced, and directed the autobiographical 2013 film “Documented” and the 2015 MTV documentary “White People. His memoir, Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen” was published in September 2018.

“Whether you want to build a wall or you want to lower walls, Jose Vargas is someone you need to hear speak. Like many children, Vargas did not know he immigrated to the United States illegally, and once he discovered his undocumented status, he struggled to prove himself worthy of his adopted country,” said Dr. Andrew Haley, director of University Forum and an associate professor of history.  

“That journey—not the one from the Philippines to the United States—but his journey from ambitious, successful young reporter to immigrant rights activist is a testament to what makes America great, and evidence that immigrants have a role to play in our future. He may not be an American, but his story is as American as apple pie."

University Forum is presented by the Southern Miss Honors College. For more information about this event, email forum@usm.edu. For information about the Honors College, visit https://www.usm.edu/honors.