Immigration

Undocumented American

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Jose Antonio Vargas came to the United States from the Philippines when he was 12, shipped off by his mother to live with his grandparents in Mountain View, California. He didn't know he was in the country illegally until he was 16. He spent the next 15 years living in secret fear, even as he chalked up impressive educational and professional success as a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Washington Post and other publications.

Starting in 2011, Vargas began chronicling his "coming out" process as an illegal in Documented, a documentary he wrote, produced, and directed. The film tends toward self-indulgence and sappiness. But Vargas' drawn-out teary conversations with his estranged mother and rah-rah shots of hopeful beneficiaries of the DREAM Act, which offered a respite for people who came to the U.S. illegally as children, effectively highlight the plight of people who have lived most of their lives as Americans yet have no path to become citizens of their adopted homeland. –Katherine Mangu-Ward