Jose Antonio Vargas and the ‘I Word’

Reporter Jose Antonio Vargas wrote a moving piece for the New York Times magazine about his status as an undocumented immigrant. One hope is that his story might improve the tone and substance of media coverage of immigration; Vargas has suggested as much, at one point tweeting this message:

Undocumented Immigrant trending. So let’s drop “Illegal” and “Alien.” No person is illegal or an alien.

His story has received a tremendous amount of media attention. But as Monica Novoa pointed out at ColorLines, too much coverage has dwelt on Vargas’ “illegal” status:

Vargas’ story has drawn enormous media attention and drove “undocumented immigrant” up to a top-trending term on Twitter yesterday. But it’s a shame that in the dissection and retelling of his story, a fine point has been lost on many of Vargas’ colleagues: He came out specifically as an undocumented immigrant and not as ‘illegal.’ The distinction is a central part of his story. He is rejecting a legally inaccurate, dehumanizing and racist label that helps to prop up an ignorant and limited immigration debate, along with all of the violence and unconstitutionality the concept of an ‘illegal’ human being engenders.

That brings us to his Sunday appearance on ABC‘s This Week. Check out their headline:

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.