Since the explosion of Jose Vargas’s article in the NY Times, I’ve been bombarded with emails from people sending me the link to his story. Each email includes a brief message about his courage and how much of an inspiration he is and how reading this article makes them think about me.
IN WHAT WAY? Yes, obviously he’s an undocumented filipino. Yes, I’m an undocumented filipina.
I’m very proud that he came out so publicly and how he changes the face of undocumented immigrants in U.S. but what bothers me is that when people read/hear about his story and then think of mine, they might begin to compare. Or at least I do.
I mean how many stories of young undocumented filipinos coming out publicly do you come across?
Well, one probably (his). Maybe a few more here and there. Nothing. as ground-breaking as his though, making me now extremely self-conscious about telling my story ever again.
When I emailed and Facebook messaged Jose about coming out over a month ago, he didn’t respond. I was pushed by both my tito Jerry Clarito, Executive Director of the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrants Rights and Empowerment, and Lawrence Benito, Deputy Director at ICIRR to contact him, but no reciprocation. I e-mailed because we really wanted to initiate a collaboration to ignite a fire (haha, pun intended) in the filipino community to take on leadership in the immigrants’ rights movement. After several weeks, no response.
In my experience, making yourself accessible to other youth in the same position is essential in order to build a sustained base of support. Although he’s inspired millions of people today, he could do so much for the APIA/immigrant youth community by connecting with our grassroots efforts.
If not, so long as the article changes people’s minds for the better, even at a distance, that’s still progress. Visibility of other APIAs definitely does help nudge others forward, at least I hope so.
Anyway, maybe the undocumented youth at the Korean-American Resource and Cultural Center I’ll be working with will be inspired by this story and feel less afraid to be open about their immigration stories.
APIA national coming out action soon? One can dream.
Carla Navoa is an IYJL Organizer, and the new Youth Organizer at the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center (KRCC). You can listen to Carla’s own coming out way back on March 1oth 2011, here: “Carla: Refusing to address a problem that plagues us, doesn’t make it go away”