At age 12, Jose Antonio Vargas was put on an airplane and sent to the United States to live with his grandparents. For four years, he lived in California without knowing he was here illegally.
But when Vargas was 16 and tried to get his driver’s permit at the Department of Motor Vehicles, a clerk whispered to him that his green card was fake — and that he shouldn’t return to the DMV.
Since that day, Vargas has been living a double life. He graduated from high school and college, and went on to have an award-winning writing career at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle. But during that time, he says, he knew he was an “undocumented immigrant … living in a different kind of reality.”
“It means going about my day in fear of being found out,” he recently wrote in the New York Times Magazine. “It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.”