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Jose Antonio Vargas discusses issues undocumented immigrants face in the U.S.

Jose Antonio Vargas, an activist and Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, talked to students about being undocumented in the United States Tuesday evening.

The event, which took place in Lory Student Center Theatre, was hosted by Dreamers United, an organization that provides a safe space for undocumented students at Colorado State University and strives to educate the public about what it means to be a “Dreamer,” a term used to describe recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

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The event centered around the issues that undocumented immigrants face. According to Karina Valadez, a sophomore studying biology, attending the event was a way to support undocumented immigrants.  

“It was important for me to come to this event because I have a lot of friends and sorority sisters that identify as DACA or undocumented, and it’s very important to show them my support as someone who does not identify as DACA or undocumented,” Valadez said.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 11.1 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. 

One specific issue Vargas mentioned was the fact that undocumented immigrants contribute a large amount of taxes to state and local governments. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy undocumented immigrants annually pay $11.64 billion dollars in state and local taxes, all of which they will never benefit from.

Vargas said that there needs to be change around the rhetoric that is used to refer to undocumented immigrants as a step to fixing the issues that undocumented immigrants face because the language used around this issue prevent a solution.

“How do you legalize people you call ‘illegal’? You don’t,” Vargas said. “You call them illegal, end of conversation, when the reality is, to be in this country illegally is actually a civil offense and not a criminal one, so when news organizations like the New York Times or The Washington Post call us illegal, that’s actually factually incorrect.”

Vargas also mentioned that people should be open to having uncomfortable conversations surrounding the issues of immigration. 

Brayan Montes-Terrazas, the president of Dreamers United, said that having Vargas speak at CSU is a step in the right direction to initiating conversations surrounding immigration. 

I think it means that we’re taking steps in the right direction as an institution to talk an about these uncomfortable topics,” Montes-Terrazas said. 

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Montes-Terrazas also said that the best way to have uncomfortable conversations surrounding immigration is to be as understanding as possible. 

I think starting those conversations has to come from a level of understanding of ‘this is my situation and this is where I am coming from,'” Montes-Terrazas said. “As Jose touched on, it can’t come from media narratives of undocumented or even (what) Latino people are doing for this country.”

Collegian reporter Jorge Espinoza can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @jorgespinoza14.

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