With comprehensive immigration reform an elusive goal in the United States, undocumented immigrants continue to be deported from the country in record numbers. Others remain with an uncertain future and no clear path to legalization.
Who are some of these folks? One is Jose Antonio Vargas, an accomplished young journalist who “outed” himself in 2011 as undocumented after living in America for almost 20 years. The insightful if slightly self-involved “Documented” tells the story of his decision to speak up and the days of despair and optimism that followed.
Writing in The New York Times Magazine, Vargas explained he had been sent, at age 12, from his native Philippines by his mother to live with his grandparents in California. He had expected his mother to follow, but she never did.
Vargas heartily embraced an American adolescence and education, and found his calling when he attended a journalism camp. In time, he worked for several major newspapers, even sharing in a Pulitzer Prize awarded to The Washington Post.
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“Documented” focuses on Vargas’ choice to become a high-profile face of undocumented immigrants, especially so-called “Dreamers,” i.e., young, productive adults who were raised in America but have no legal papers.
The film is at its best when Vargas, like a good journalist, probes the subject of immigration and talks to people about their experiences and opinions. It’s less effective when Vargas is pulling stunts (showing up at a Mitt Romney campaign appearance with a sign) or turning over a large chunk of the film to a tearful reconciliation with his mother.
Vargas may have a personal take on illegal immigration, but he makes his best case when he shows he’s not alone.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org