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Askwith Education Forum

Askwith Essentials: Immigration, Activism, and DACA

Host journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas in conversation with MSNBC's Joy Reid.

Vargas and Reid will discuss the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, immigration policy in the United States, and community reaction to recent political maneuvering. An introduction by Professor Roberto Gonzales will kick off the DACA Seminar at Harvard, a multiweek series that examines issues surrounding immigration with academics, artists, and activists.

About DACA:

  • The Obama Administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act — commonly known as DACA — in 2012.
  • DACA grants permission to youth brought to the United States illegally by their parents to remain temporarily in the U.S.
  • DACA recipients are allowed to work, study, and obtain their drivers’ licenses.
  • DACA required applicants to have been younger than 31 years old when the policy was enacted, have come to the U.S. before turning 16, and have had lived continuously in the country since June 15, 2007. They also needed to have a high school diploma, GED certification, been honorably discharged from the military, or still be in school. They could not have a criminal record.
  • There have been approximately 800,000 DACA recipients, with almost 700,000 currently falling under the DACA umbrella.
  • In September 2017, the Trump administration announced its decision to end the DACA program, with permits set to begin expiring on March 5, 2018.

About Jose Antonio Vargas:

  • Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for breaking news reporting for his team’s Washington Post coverage of the 2008 Virginia Tech shootings
  • Born in the Philippines, Vargas discovered at age 16, when applying for his driver’s license, that he had unknowingly been living as an undocumented immigrant since he came to the U.S. at age 12. In the 2012 The New York Times Magazine article, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant,” he shares the struggles of being an undocumented immigrant, from obtaining a driver’s license, to finding funds to go to college, to finding employment. “Yet even though I think of myself as an American and consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as one of its own,” Vargas wrote.
  • In a 2012 TIME cover story, “Not Legal, Not Leaving,” Vargas described the continued challenges of undocumented Americans. “Everyday life for an undocumented American means a constant search for loopholes and back doors,” he wrote.
  • The film Documented, which Vargas produced, details his personal struggles and work as an activist on immigration policy.
  • He founded Define American, a nonprofit organization that uses media platforms to raise awareness about immigration policy and continue a discussion on what it means to be an American.
  • Vargas visited HGSE as the keynote speaker for the 2015 Alumni of Color Conference. As a guest on the Harvard EdCast, Vargas said of the issues involving immigration in the United States, “The beauty and challenge of America is that it’s ours. One of the challenges now is how do we insist on humanizing this incredibly political, partisan, toxic issue?”

About Joy Reid:

  • Harvard alumna, political analyst, and host of AM Joy on MSNBC
  • Reid has been outspoken in her support of immigrants living in and coming to the United States.
  • In response to President Trump’s recent comments referring to certain nations as “shithole countries,” Reid opened up about her immigrant parents while guest-hosting MSNBC’s All in with Chris Hayes: “Now I happen to be an American citizen. I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Denver, Colorado. But my parents were immigrants. My mom, who was a college professor, was born in British Guyana. My father, who was a geologist, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Two people who emigrated from those countries, from countries located in South America just off the Caribbean in Africa, just off the Caribbean and from Africa. Parts of the world that presumably, according to the president of the United States, you will find ‘shithole’ countries from which the United States should not accept immigrants.”

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