After coming clean about his status as an illegal immigrant, Philippine–born Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas now has a growing army of Facebook fans.
By Friday, the Jose Antonio Vargas page had 602 fans and elicited hundreds of comments, mostly praising Vargas for his courage in admitting that he had been living in the United States using fake documents.
Vargas revealed his two-decades-old secret in a tell-all essay published in the New York Times on Wednesday. He even recalled how it had seemed less daunting for him to admit he was gay than admit that he had no genuine papers to stay in the US.
Facebook fans expressed sympathy and admiration for him, while others wished him the best in realizing his dream of a US citizenship.
Still others slammed him.
Eugene Barrios said: “American citizenship is not about certificates or any piece of paper. It’s a way of life. Mr. Vargas is an American in the true sense of the word.”
Others, like Marcela Smith, called Vargas a genius, be he an illegal immigrant or not.
“Am happy that you told the truth, finally you will be able to sleep at night. I hope you talk to (President Barack) Obama and he can help you to speed the citizenship process,” her message read.
A woman who said she was from New Zealand said it was time the US made his citizenship official.
“Read about you this morning, you’ve made the news in New Zealand. You are already a hardworking, responsible citizen, time for the USA to let you make it official. All the best!” she said.
Others thanked Vargas for sharing his story with the world.
A woman signing herself as “Erlinda DLC” said: “Salamat” (thanks) for sharing your story and showing that there are many illegal immigrants here who do contribute to society and make a difference in our world.”
Is he different?
Others were not too kind.
Bonju Patten said: “Jose, pay your taxes and then you’ll be an American citizen. Not before. Pay your taxes or go to war for the USA. You can’t live here illegally. They will make an example of you yet!”
Another Facebook page, titled “Grant Jose Antonio Vargas Citizenship,” had 21 “likes” as of press time.
A woman calling herself Michelle Green-Villalobos asked what made Vargas different from other illegal immigrants in the US.
“Not to be rude but what makes him any better than a father raising his children that is here illegally?… Why is jose any better? There are families that are torn apart everyday, and people are only worried about the ones that don’t have a family here in the US, what gives?” she asked.
Vargas’ Twitter account followers shot up to 8,747 after the New York Times published his story.
Sought for comment, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Eduardo Malaya said he was not aware if Vargas had asked for assistance from the Philippine Embassy or consulate about his problem.
“However, if he asks for help, just like any Filipino abroad who is distressed, the Philippines will provide assistance,” Malaya said.
US Embassy acting public affairs officer Alan Holst, also contacted for comment, said in a text message: “Issues of possible undocumented or illegal presence in the United States are under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security in the United States.”
Several Twitter users called Vargas’ article “inspiring” and “brave.”
Twitter user Charles J. Tan (charlesjtan) said: “Everyone has a dream, a right to a fighting chance for life they are meant to live.”
Television host Daphne Oseña (DaphneOP) said: “I think if Jose Antonio Vargas gets deported he can get an awesome job as a journalist in Asia, using a legal Filipino passport.”
“On behalf of Filipino dreamers, I thank you sir,” said Regem Ralph on Facebook.
“You have given a voice to millions of Americans living in fear,” said user Walter Robles on the same site.
User Romeo Kilayko Jr. likewise left inspiring words for Vargas: “Your courage is mightier than any pen or sword. Your story will illuminate the dark paths for those who can’t speak out. It’s high time America give you what you deserve for being a good citizen. Mabuhay ka!”
Not everyone, however, was sympathetic.
In his online article, “The 1st Amendment isn’t a get-out-of-jail card,” Don Surber of the Charleston Daily Mail said: “Good reporter or not, kick the lying, illegal alien Jose Antonio Vargas out.”