May 23, 2019  

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Vargas: American South Must Be Part of Conversation on Immigration

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University Forum speaker Jose Antonio Vargas discusses immigration Oct. 23 at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM photo by Kelly Dunn)

Examining how we view immigrants and what it means to be American citizen must include input from those who live in the Southeastern U.S., said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Jose Antonio Vargas Oct. 23 at the final edition of the fall 2018 University Forum series at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM).

The title of Vargas’ presentation was ““Define America: My Life As An Undocumented Immigrant” in which he discussed the challenges he and others with his status face as an undocumented immigrant face in the U.S., including a wide variety of myths and stereotypes involving alleged criminality or avoidance of taxes.

Vargas said in his presentation and in his discussions with students on the Hattiesburg campus earlier in the day that “we cannot define American in our changing society without the South.”

“We need a new generation of Southerners who want to engage in a more inclusive and just America,” Vargas said. “We all live in each other’s stereotypes, and we are all suffering under the weight of them.”

Vargas said he hoped what his University Forum audience would take from his talk is that “silence is not acceptable and that we have to engage, even when it is uncomfortable and painful.”

University Forum is presented by the Southern Miss Honors College. Learn more about University Forum at