FEATURED:

California school to be named after journalist, undocumented immigrant

California school to be named after journalist, undocumented immigrant
© Getty Images

A California school board voted this week to name a new elementary school after a local Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who is also an undocumented immigrant.

The Mountain View Whisman School District board voted Thursday to dedicate the upcoming public school to Jose Antonio Vargas, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Vargas was 12 years old when his family emigrated from the Philippines to the United States. He later revealed his undocumented status in a 2011 New York Times Magazine article

Vargas won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for his work on The Washington Post’s coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. He now works as an immigration activist and documentary film maker.

He co-founded the immigration activist group, Define American, the year he revealed his undocumented status. Define America is a nonprofit media organization that documents stories of immigrants and injustice toward them.

Vargas was up against Apple founder Steve Jobs and other tech leaders from the Silicon Valley for the school's name.

The district's school board president, Laura Blakely, told The Chronicle that Vargas is a natural fit for the dedication.

“He’s a product of our school district,” Blakely said. “He’s been the face of the American dream for so many students who came here as children, and really grew up as Americans without having citizenship. We have so many students in our community who are ‘Dreamers,’ and he’s such an inspiration.”

Vargas grew up in the school district southeast of Palo Alto, Calif., where he attended Crittenden Middle School and Mountain View High School.

“Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School is dedicated to all undocumented students and their parents and families,” Vargas wrote on Twitter Friday. “We are here. We are an intrinsic part of every community.”

The decision came amid a wave of heightened tensions surrounding the Trump administration's policies toward immigration.

“We are living through an ugly and hateful time in our country when immigrant families are under constant attack, even at schools,” said Patricia Hyland, chairwoman of Define American’s board of trustees and Vargas’s former principal.

“The district’s decision is an affirmation of American values and our belief in opening our doors of opportunities to all kinds of dreamers,” she said.