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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Keynote Speaker at UW Immigration Symposium

August 29, 2014
Man smiling
Jose Antonio Vargas

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in a groundbreaking essay published in The New York Times Magazine, is the speaker for an immigration symposium at the University of Wyoming.

Vargas will speak at a luncheon Thursday, Sept. 18, during the symposium titled, “Where Are We Now? Immigration Policy and Its Impact from a Wyoming and a National Perspective.” His talk is at 1:30 p.m. in Salon DE of the UW Conference Center at the Hilton Garden Inn. The Wyoming Humanities Council generously funds Vargas’ presentation.

The UW American Heritage Center sponsors the two-day event, which is free and open to the public.

The symposium will delve into the complex nature and scope of immigration and help determine how immigration has contributed to the social, economic and political fabric of Wyoming and nation.

Vargas takes audiences deeper into his story, sharing details of his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his journey through America as an immigration reform activist; and his journey inward as he reconnects with his mother, whom he hadn’t seen in person in more than 20 years. With anecdotes from both his own story -- and the struggles of countless other undocumented immigrants in America -- Vargas explores one of the most divisive questions facing the country today: “How do you define ‘American?’”

His 2011 article stunned media and political circles around the country and attracted worldwide coverage when Vargas outed himself as an undocumented immigrant. He has since testified at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform, and has been at the forefront of challenging the media’s coverage of undocumented immigrants.

Born in the Philippines and raised in the United States since age 12, Vargas was part of the Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting in 2008 for coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings. He also has worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Philadelphia Daily News and the Huffington Post.

Vargas wrote, produced and directed the autobiographical 2013 film “Documented” that aired on CNN. The documentary detailed his own story against the political backdrop of the stalled immigration debate and highlights the pain of his own family separation and the frustration of unrealized potential weighing on the estimated 11.7 undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Vargas also is the founder of Define American, a media and culture campaign that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration and citizenship in a changing America.

Panel discussions and other speakers also are lined up for the UW immigration symposium.

Among topics to be discussed are Wyoming’s immigration and migrant situation; current diverging national opinions on immigration; and looking at immigration through different angles related to the humanities, including culture, art and music.

Wyoming retired U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson is scheduled to give introductory reflection remarks. Other speakers include UW faculty members; others from various universities; UW students; representatives of entities that focus on immigration issues; and Ruben Navarette, a prominent columnist whose syndicated column is distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group.

For a complete symposium schedule, visit the website at

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