CLS Presents Jose Antonio Vargas

On October 24, 2014, Columbia Legal Services and the ACLU of Washington presented a special evening with Jose Antonio Vargas as part of the Social Justice Film Festival, which works to bring inspiring filmmaking to new audiences and make the art of filmmaking an integral part of social change. Vargas changed the national narrative aroVargas Panelund immigration when he made public his powerful personal story as an undocumented LGBT immigrant and, ever since, has supported DREAMers in taking bold action that challenges inaction on Capitol Hill around immigration reform and public perceptions of undocumented immigrants.  

The evening featured Documented, a documentary directed by and starring Vargas, two shorts, and a screening of The Vigil, a film about a small group of undocumented mothers who set out to stop America’s groundbreaking anti-immigration law, SB1070, from going into effect in Arizona.

The Vigil was followed by a panel discussion with Vargas and local leaders and advocates for social justice and immigrant rights, including Aurora Martin, Jorge Barón, and Pramila Jayapal. Print event flyer.

Media coverage of the event including The Seattle Times, The UW Daily, Real Change News, and Seattle Univision.

Friday, October 24
5:00pm – Screening of Documented preceded by two shorts, Floating Boarders and Los Olvidados – suggested donation at the door
7:00pm – Screening of The Vigil , followed by a dynamic conversation featuring Jose Antonio Vargas and local leaders

University Christian Church
4731 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98105


Jose Antonio Vargas. 89 min. USA.

In 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in the New York Times Magazine. Documented chronicles his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his journey through America as an immigration reform activist/provocateur; and his journey inward as he re-connects with his mother, whom he hasn’t seen in 20 years.

This feature will be preceeded by the following shorts:

Floating Borders

Samori Tovatt, 2 min, Malta/Sweden
In a dreamy landscape, a young African man travels to Europe in hope of a better life. But when he gets there, the reality is different from what he hoped. Floating Borders is a short film about the universal search for a life that has fulfillment and meaning.

Los Olvidados (The Forgotten)

David Feldman, 14 min, USA
Los Olvidados (The Forgotten) is the story of Ramiro Gomez, an LA street artist who garnered media attention when he began creating life-size cardboard representations of migrant workers and placed them around affluent neighborhoods where the workers were employed, but invisible.

The Vigil

Jenny Alexander, 55 min, USA
The Vigil is the story of Gina and a small group of undocumented mothers on the front lines of the battle over immigration in America. Armed with their faith and tradition, the women set out to stop America’s groundbreaking anti-immigration law, Senate Bill 1070, from going into effect in Arizona. The women risk arrest and deportation as they gather day and night on the Arizona State Capitol lawn, holding vigil in front of the legislators and in the patrol area of the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio. As the women transform the vigil into a refuge for their community, they begin a journey out of the shadows and into the heart of an intergenerational immigrant movement that is asking us to take another look at what it means to be a citizen.

See the entire program of amazing films at the Social Justice Film Festival.

A Conversation with Jose Antonio Vargas & Local Leaders

After the films, the evening continued with a dynamic conversation featuring:

Our panel of passionate advocates has deep roots in social justice movements across Washington State. They joined Vargas to share their insights of how the power of personal stories can impact policymakers and help shape the public narrative. Panelists shared strategies for how participants can effectively engage in conversations around immigration with people “outside the choir” that strengthen and lift up immigrant communities.

The conversation examined questions about defining what it means to be American and touch on timely issues impacting immigrant families in the Pacific Northwest, from income inequality to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

Jose Antonio Vargas

Bio: Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas (born February 3, 1981) is a journalist, filmmaker, and immigration activist. Bornin the Philippines and raised in the United States from the age of 12, in a June 2011 essay in The New York Times Magazine, Vargas revealed his status as an undocumented immigrant in an effort to promote dialogue about the immigration system in the United States and to advocate for the DREAM Act, which would provide children in similar circumstances with a path to citizenship. A year later, a day after the publication of his Time cover story about his continued uncertainty regarding his immigration status, the Obama administration announced it was halting the deportation of undocumented immigrants age 30 and under eligible for the DREAM Act; Vargas, who had just turned 31, did not qualify.

Vargas is the founder of Define American, a non-profit organization intended to open up dialogue about the criteria people use to determine who is an American. Of himself he has said: “I am an American. I just don’t have the right papers.”


CLS thanks the following sponsors for their generous contributions toward making this evening possible:

American Civil Liberties Union of WashingtonSocial Justice Film Festival Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Univision Seattle

Latino/a Bar Association of Washington The Seattle Globalist Filipino Lawyers of WashingtonUniversity Christian Church

Thanks also to Greater Talent Network for helping make this event a success.

Panel photo credit: Colette-Yasi Naraghi (for Social Justice Film Festival)