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Jose Antonio Vargas wrote “Outlaw: My Life In America As An Undocumented Immigrant”, for the New York Times (June 22, 2011), and in it, he claims that being an illegal immigrant is more complicated than it seems on the surface. Like Vargas, many illegal immigrants are often sent to America at young ages and have to hide their true identities to succeed. Vargas develops this fact when he begins to adapt to his new life and continues to fake documents and lie to those around him to maintain his place in America. Vargas’s purpose for writing is to prove to that immigrants come to America seeking endless opportunity to gain success but often have to do this through deceit. Vargas does this by telling his story in this narrative to grasp the interest of other immigrants. He acknowledges the fraudulent identity he has developed, that clashes with his morals and his character and creates major issues while growing up and trying to adapt to society.
Vargas unfolds his story by first discussing how he is forced to migrate to America. This immediately resembles many of those who came to America at a very young age and also had to find their own way to success while maintaining confidentiality. Vargas originally doesn’t understand the struggles he will face in society. His family, the beginning of his support system, creates his fake identity without his knowledge while he was at a young age. He discovered the truth while attempting to get his driver’s permit (Vargas 326), and when he gets turned down he began his pursuit to prove to everyone around him that he is American. Vargas sharing his experience at the DMV and how it taught him how to adjust easier to society without others noticing his illegal status, makes the narrative more relatable and personalized. Once he realizes he is an immigrant and isn’t welcomed in society, he understands the hostility attached to the label he is given by his family and by Americans. Throughout Vargas’s writing, he continues to find ways to relate to other immigrants using his profession “that is all about truth-telling” (Vargas, 330). He discusses the issue of finding work in journalism which is his passion and finding jobs are often major issues for immigrants. He also talks about the constant sense of deficiency and dislocation he felt living in America and having to live a fabricated lifestyle.
Vargas’s purpose was constantly encouraged throughout his story to pursue his dreams which gave him the incentive to keep pushing regardless of his unknown legal status. Vargas shows that if he increases the amount of work he achieves he can gain citizenship even if he lies about who he is to do so. Vargas and his family make multiple sacrifices, that could reveal their secrets, in order to grant him some kind of way into success. When he got the hang of living in America undocumented, it became the norm for him, and he had “no intention of acknowledging [his] ‘problem’” (Vargas 331). Vargas clings to the new version of himself and constantly overcomes his hardships to prove his citizenship. His determination consumed his morals and he forgot about his integrity to maintain success. On the surface, he seems like the perfect American citizen living “The American Dream” (Vargas, 326) but he knows deep down that his career validated his success and his presence. Vargas used the idea of using hard work to gain citizenship to encourage him to continue hiding his legal status especially since “claiming full citizenship was actually easier than declaring permanent resident” (Vargas, 328). His fabricated lifestyle allowed him to succeed professionally for the majority of his life, proving that his hard work does fill the displacement he felt as an immigrant. Vargas allows people to just see the surface qualities he displays to validate his presence here (Vargas, 327) and to keep his secret more concealed. The image he creates as an outlaw becomes the only life he knows and coming to terms with the truth was definitely liberating.
Vargas attacks the ideas of what an illegal immigrant really is, a person searching for a dream that America displays but doesn’t fulfill. There is obvious tension in America when it comes to how society defines them. The article as a whole makes an attempt at reaching out to other immigrants who are experiencing the same struggles. Vargas does this by telling his story to be authentic. Understanding that the life of a successful immigrant is possible if your dreams for a better future are your constant motivation, is the purpose that Vargas had for writing this piece. Vargas constantly uses his narrative to show that even though many immigrants develop an identity established in deceit, their struggles emotionally, mentally, and socially, help shape them and in the end make them the American citizens they fight to be. Vargas proves that once you value hard work it makes it easier to earn status and build an identity for yourself.