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Pulitzer-winning Journalist and Undocumented Immigrant Jose Vargas to Speak at ODU

Photo of Jose Antonio VargasJose Antonio Vargas

Old Dominion University will host Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas for an upcoming installment of the President's Lecture Series.

Vargas will speak at 7:30 p.m. April 8 at Webb University Center. The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP, visit the University Events website and use event code: JVL14.

In 2011, Vargas - who was on a Washington Post reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech - gained international notoriety when he revealed a long-kept personal secret in an essay for The New York Times Magazine, titled "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant."

At the time of his revelation, Vargas had been living in the United States for 18 years. A native of the Philippines, he was sent by his mother in 1993 to live with grandparents in Silicon Valley. There, he immersed himself in American culture, learned to speak English and went to school, where he was introduced to journalism while writing for a school newspaper. At 16, Vargas discovered that his green card, which was given to him by family members, was fraudulent during a visit to the DMV to apply for a learner's driving permit. Despite that revelation, it would be many more years before he came clean about his personal history.

"This deceit never got easier," Vargas has said, in describing his experience. "The more I did it, the more I felt like an imposter, the more guilt I carried - and the more I worried I would get caught."

Even so, Vargas kept the secret to avoid deportation and pursue his American dream - a career in journalism. He succeeded in that goal, working for an array of media outlets, including The New Yorker, the Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, New York magazine and daily newspapers such as the Philadelphia Daily News and San Francisco Chronicle. He has also appeared on CNN, ABC News and "PBS NewsHour."

Vargas has also taught Storytelling 2.0 at Georgetown University and served on the advisory board for the Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism, housed at American University. In 2007, he was named one of the "50 Politicos to Watch" by the daily online journal Politico.

Finally tired of lying to friends and colleagues, avoiding close relationships and passing on travel abroad due to his illegal passport, Vargas revealed his true story, stunning those in media and political circles and attracting worldwide attention.

Today, Vargas lives in New York City and runs Define American, a nonprofit organization that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration.

"Documented," a film Vargas wrote, produced and directed, will air later this year on CNN. It chronicles his life as an undocumented immigrant and his crusade to reform the country's immigration laws. To view a trailer for the film, visit the Hollywood Reporter website.

The Old Dominion University President's Lecture Series features speakers who share their knowledge, experiences, opinions and accomplishments. Past speakers have included scientists, writers, educators, historians, Pulitzer Prize winners and other prominent figures.