The Lives of America’s Young and Undocumented Residents

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ disclosure that he is an undocumented immigrant in this weekend's New York Times Magazine highlights the plight of as many as eleven million illegal residents living here in the United States. These residents say they are social outcasts and live in constant fear of deportation.

Two young women join us to speak about their lives as undocumented residents. Reyna Wences is originally from Mexico and now lives in Chicago and works with the Immigrant Youth Justice LeagueSonya Guinansaca, from Ecuador, is a college student at the City University at New York's Hunter College and works at the New York State Youth Leadership Council, where she started the Dream Act Student Campaign.

And here's a video of Jose Antonio Vargas speaking about his experience growing up as an undocumented immigrant, and defining himself as an American: 


Sonya Guinansaca and Reyna Wences

Produced by:

Duncan Wilson

Comments [7]

Kip from Fort Collins,CO

What is missing in this entire argument is the complete unsustainability of it all. The world is growing at 1% per year with a doubling time of 72 years. Thanks to immigration the US is growing at a 2% rate with a doubling time of only 36 years.
One in four Americans were born in other countries. Half of all births in the US last year were by mothers from other countries. Over 500,000 anchor babies are born here each year. By 2040 our country will have a population of 600 million if nothing changes.
What we need is a moratorium on all immigration both legal and illegal until our population has time to stabilize.
With regards to the dream act. No. Their will be some who, for a variety of reasons, may be allowed to stay here. But it needs to be done on a case by case basis with the understanding that the majority of illegal immigrants will need to be repatriated.
If we do not secure our borders and stabilize our population chaos will be ours in less than 30 years.
Thank you.

Jun. 24 2011 12:40 AM
Dmitry from brooklyn

As an immigrant, I know first hand about this issue. Simply put, our ICE, the immigration and naturalization service is an awful, money-wasting, time-wasting, people-wasting, red-tape, bureaucratic nightmare. It is inefficient, lacks accountability, and it's goals are to create paperwork for it's employees to grow the bureaucracy. That's the problem. Immigration authorities should be restructured and made to work better.

Jun. 23 2011 10:05 PM
Jacquelyn from Detroit

I felt completely outraged today when a caller noted that although these may be good people, they are still breaking the law and when asked to address that comment, Reyna Wences and Sonya Guinansaca completely danced around the issue. Yes, they may have lived here for so long that the U.S. is home to them, but that does not make what they're doing legal — or right. They seem to think they should be here just because they want to be.

Why should "undocumented" immigrants (whether they come here of their own accord or a relative's) be exempt from following laws? I don't care that they pay taxes or are educated or are good people. (Being well educated only makes people seem arrogant when they still choose to remain here illegally.)They are still breaking the law by simply being here, which is showing disrespect for the country they claim to love so much and all those who work hard to follow the proper path to citizenship.

And yes, it's sad that these people are torn from their families when they make the decision to come to the U.S., but that is still a decision they CHOSE to make and again, does not make that choice a legal one. And as far as the way our country handles these issues, I am disgusted by the fact that these people are even willing to be named on national radio yet will probably still not face deportation. Thank you for bringing up this topic. It needs further discussion and a solution.

Jun. 23 2011 08:07 PM
kmarnyc from New York CIty

Although I am a supporter of immigration in general and of providing some way to allow those undocumented persons already here in the U.S. to obtain legal status after proper vetting, I think some of the arguments these persons are giving to justify their remaining here are not very persuasive to most Americans. Those arguments include both a desire to economically provide for their families and an insistence that the families not be separated through deportation. Though those arguments are wholly understandable, they appear as selfish in nature and insensitive to the concern Americans feel towards the integrity of their borders and the limitations of their available resources -- esp. the financial ones. Better it might be if the "undocumenteds" appeal to the pride Americans have in their Constitutional principles and institutions and insist that they as potential new Americans have much to contribute to perpetuate the ideals of the country they want to stay in. Talk -- at least rhetorically -- about what you have to offer us rather than what you want to take from us. That might more easily clinch the immigration sell!

Jun. 23 2011 03:45 PM
AngelicaS from Miami, FL

Americans support LEGAL immigration. Americans (including this Democrat) reject ILLEGAL immigration.

We have a right (and our elected leaders have a DUTY) to enforce the rule of law with respect to immigration. American has THE MOST GENEROUS immigration policies in the world, permitting over 700,000 LEGAL immigrants into our country every year. If you want to come here, YOU DO IT LEGALLY, OR YOU SHOULD BE DEPORTED. The notion that enforcement of our immigration laws is tantamount to "fascism" (as some intelectually dishonest commenters have suggested) IS DESPICABLE.

The current ILLEGAL immigration free-for-all is understood to be unacceptable and unsustainable by the vast majority of Americans (including this Democrat). American citizens, LEGAL immigrants, and businesses that abide by the law are being DEVASTATED by this ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION NIGHTMARE. This will factor in HUGE in the 2012 Election.

A government which refuses to enforce its own laws is INTOLERABLE. If our leaders will not enforce our laws (THE MOST GENEROUS IN THE WORLD), Americans will not tolerate you!

Jun. 23 2011 11:50 AM
Tom from Detroit

Somehow, I couldn't help but hear the words of Dan Bern's "Fascist" in the back of my mind as I listened to some of the listener comments on this one. "It's just the fascist in me......!"

Jun. 23 2011 09:47 AM
Kathryn from Brooklyn NY

Using the work “undocumented” in the media completely disrespects the efforts of the millions of people who have worked their way patiently through the system to stay here legally.

My husband “waited in line” for years before he received his Green Card. All of my grandparents worked extremely hard to get and stay here legally. Two of my brothers now live legally in other countries, where they have worked their own way through the respective systems. My son knows that we would never overstay our visas while travelling, no matter how much we might wish to stay in another country, even where we would love to be with our families.

Jun. 23 2011 07:35 AM

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