Define American

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Define American: The Year in Review

| Adriana Dakin

It's been an amazing year since Define American launched, and this post is a compilation of how the year has played out as reflected on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, media, our website, and other channels.

We're not done. It's just the beginning. Let's keep talking!

June 2011: Define American launches to begin a new conversation in our country.

Jose Antonio Vargas hints at things to come ...


and documents his story in a video ...



Comments came flooding in, such as ...

"his teacher was very nice; however much i sympathize with him and do support in some ways the dream act, there comes a time where we can't just open the gates and tell the world it's ok, that you didn't realize bc your parents brought you. i want them to become citizens, but if we let some of them do it now, ten years from now a new group of immigrants will want the same treatment, or even expect it, becoming a cycle. but we should treat everyone w/ respect, legal or not."

"i think jose had some great experiences and opportunities and even a great education. now he can return to his home country and live a better life if he wants or try to get married or find a way to become a legal citizen. just because someone wants to be here is not make them american. why is it so important to stay? there are many many people with many stories of struggle and oppression and hardship that deserve a chance but not all can have it, we have to follow the rules."

On June 22, 2011, The New York Times Magazine published his story

Word spread rapidly on Twitter:




ABC World News' Dan Harris interviewed Jose when his story came out in The New York Times.

Jose told ABC News: "I wasn't supposed to be there. I wasn't supposed to be walking with Mark Zuckerberg. I wasn't supposed to be interviewing Romney's sons. Why was I doing it? Because I wanted to survive. I wanted to live. I wanted to earn what it means to be an American." Watch the video ...



A day after the article in The New York Times, The Hill's Congress blog wrote, "The success of a civil rights movement depends on people who are willing to take extraordinary personal risk ..."

National Public Radio (NPR) published a story on June 24, 2011 asking whether Jose would be likely to be deported, and found out from authorities what their deportation priorities are.

Jose sat down with CNN's Howard Kurtz on June 26, 2011, talking about the paradox of reporting on stories about immigrants without at that time revealing his own undocumented status.



On June 29, DREAMers from across the country gathered for a “graduation” ceremony at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Jose gave the commencement address.



On Independence Day of 2011, Jose went to Times Square in NYC to ask how THEY define American. Hear a multitude of perspectives in the video.


Stephen Colbert talked with Jose on the Colbert Report



How do you define American? Stephen Colbert just looks in the mirror ...

In October 2011, the 7,800-member Society of Professional Journalists passed a resolution at the Excellence in Journalism convention in New Orleans to drop the i-word ("illegal").

The Associate Press said on Facebook, “We've updated our style on illegal immigrant.” Find out what they said ...

But ColorLines had this opinion: "While many reporters and editors are re-evaluating how they describe undocumented immigrants in a way that does not dehumanize them or compromise constitutionality, accuracy and professional journalistic ethics, the change from the AP still falls short" Read more ...

Jose reported on former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's views, who said, "I don't see how [the] party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century." Read more ...

The Huffington Post reported, “Journalist-turned-activist Jose Antonio Vargas was escorted by police from a Mitt Romney media event on Friday, after he attempted to ask a question about the Republican candidate's views on immigration.” …

How would Secretary of State Hillary Clinton define "American"? (You can give your definition at: defineamerican.com/stories). Watch Jose pose the question ...

And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton responded with how she defines "American" ...


In the Huffington Post, Julia Duperrault of Politics Uncuffed shared the story of keeping her bestfriends secret.

Over in Washington, sometimes it can feel like our elected officials are doing a whole lot of the talking and none of the listening. But several United States senators were listening!

Senator Harry Reid (D - NV) talked about his family's arrival from Russia and what immigration has done for the country.

And Senator Michael Bennet (D - CO) told the story of his family's immigration.

The Issaquah Times interviewed Jose on courage. “Courage. One could come up with a very convincing argument that Jose Antonio Vargas is a paradigm when it comes courage. Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter ..." Read more ...

In the spring of 2012, NBC interviewed Jose’s former high school principal and superintendent, who had kept Jose's secret. They talked about what happens (or doesn't happen) when it's discovered a student in public school is an undocumented immigrant ...

In June 2012, a year after his essay in The New York Times, Jose was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine.

In Not Legal, Not Leaving, the TIME article began ...

"'Why haven't you gotten deported?'

That's usually the first thing people ask me when they learn I'm an undocumented immigrant or, put more rudely, an "illegal." Some ask it with anger or frustration, others with genuine bafflement. At a restaurant in Birmingham, not far from the University of Alabama, an inebriated young white man..."

In a video for TIME, Jose talked about growing up undocumented in America, and why immigration is the most misunderstood issue in the U.S. today.


 
People responded on social media to the TIME Magazine Cover.

On June 15, 2012, just after the release of the TIME cover image, President Barack Obama spoke at the White House about the Department of Homeland Security's decision to not deport young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, have lived here for five or more years, have no criminal record and have completed some schooling or military service.

Jose wrote on Define American's blog, “Today our country embraces upwards of one million young new Americans: DREAMers.”

TIME published another piece by Jose discussing how the immigration issue continues to be divisive, and why it shouldn't be. He began:

"'So now we’re taking care of these illegal, foreign kids before taking care of our own kids?'
That question landed in my inbox late Saturday afternoon. The day before had been a landmark in immigrant rights. In a speech in the Rose Garden, President Obama ordered a stop to the deportation of upwards of 1 million undocumented youth, granting them work permits if they meet certain criteria."



On Fox News, Bill O'Reilly and Jose debated immigration



The effort continues …

Through a Change.org petition, we thanked President Obama ...

The New York Immigration Coalition invited Define American to celebrate NYIC's 25th anniversary at a NASDAQ bell ceremony in Times Square. See our photos on Facebook.

Together, let's make the next year even more momentous than the last for undocumented immigrants. Let's take politics out of it and have a commonsense conversation. We're here, now what? There are solutions.

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