Statement from Jose Antonio Vargas and the Define American team

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Statement from Jose Antonio Vargas and the Define American team

It is now more important than ever to ask: how do we define American?

At Define American, we believe that immigration has been the most politicized, polarizing issue in this election. It is all-encompassing: when we talk about immigration, we are talking about race. We are talking about gender. We are talking about class. We are talking about education, and more.

But all of this talk doesn’t touch hearts and minds. So we share stories. They remind us that, underneath, we’re all human. Our story platformthe largest collection of personal immigration narratives on the webis a testament to the power that storytelling can have.

Our democracy was built on a shared sense of humanity: the idea that no matter our race, gender or creed, we are united through a belief in freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Through stories, we are reminded why immigrants have bravely made their way here for centuries and put their hearts and souls into making this country great. We all want freedom to grow and love and raise families and have our children achieve their dreams.

But we cannot function as a democracy unless every pillar stands strong. As a media and culture organization, we recognize the great power and responsibility of the news media: an institution charged with speaking truth to power. Two of our biggest initiatives—#WordsMatter and #FactsMatter—were launched to pick up slack where the media failed: both in reporting facts about immigration accurately, frequently and fully; and in challenging usage of derogatory language like the word “illegal” when describing human beings. We are proud to have been able to move the needle and will forge ahead, working with journalists and media organizations to help them improve.

However: yesterday, we elected a man who has stated that, as President, he will immediately deport 11 million undocumented Americans – and their families. He is also married to a  formerly undocumented immigrant. We have hope that the personal relevance of our immigration system’s problems to our president-elect may provide common ground where we can meet to begin healing our divided country, together.

In the meantime: all of us, documented and undocumented, have the power to decide how we treat our neighbors. Those of us with citizenship who are protected by the Constitution must come forward as allies. Your brothers and sisters who are undocumented need to know who you are. You must show up for them in the coming days and years.

Visit defineamerican.com/pin, and change your profile picture, show support for immigrants

To our undocumented brothers and sisters: you are not alone.

No matter what, we at Define American are not done fighting to lead people toward a place where we can tell stories, connect with and inspire one another, instead of fearing those who are new to our community. History has taught us that fear doesn’t win in the end; love does. This is not where the story ends. We fight on. And because it is now more important than ever to know the answer, we will continue to ask: how do we define American?

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