July 1st, 2015, Washington, D.C. – In an unprecedented national effort to improve the perception of undocumented immigrants, Define American launches its Coming Out campaign today – calling on undocumented immigrants to empower themselves by publicly announcing their immigration status to friends, family and their communities. Among those supporting the campaign is world-renowned dog behaviorist and star of Cesar 911 on Nat Geo WILD, Cesar Millan.
"I've come out twice in my life – first, as a teenager, to tell my classmates that I am gay; second, as an adult, to tell the country I grew up in that I am an undocumented American. While both risky in their own ways, each resulted in a kind of personal liberation that changed the perceptions of my friends, co-workers, and those close to me. We ‘come out’ to let people in,” said Jose Antonio Vargas, the founder of Define American and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who is also the founder and editor of #EmergingUS, an upcoming digital magazine in partnership with the Los Angeles Times that will cover race, immigration and identity.
On the heels of last week’s landmark ruling on marriage equality, the campaign draws inspiration from Harvey Milk’s call on closeted LGBT Americans to come out, as well as the courageous coming out of undocumented youth (also known as DREAMers) across the country in the past few years. The effort aims to empower undocumented Americans by joining a broad online community and owning their immigration stories. The campaign will be centered around an innovative online platform that gives those coming out the opportunity to record their personal story and share it through Define American’s website. For those concerned about the risks of coming out, the site includes legal resources provided by the National Immigration Law Center. In addition to the storytelling tool, Define American has created a video featuring undocumented Americans of diverse ages and ethnic backgrounds declaring their immigration status publicly.
Cesar Millan, star of hit TV shows including Cesar 911 and The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, has shared his story of coming to the United States without documentation. Millan says he is proud of his American story and became a citizen in 2009, the culmination of his American dream.
“I know firsthand the struggles of being undocumented,” said Millan. “I hope that by sharing my story and supporting this campaign, undocumented Americans feel a sense of solidarity with the millions of others who are in the same situation.”
“Those coming out as part of this campaign are empowering themselves by expressing who they are, and in doing so join a heroic lineage of those who came before them,” said Rev. Ryan M. Eller, Executive Director of Define American. “As the 2016 presidential contenders continue to debate immigration policy, those who are frustrated with inaction should come out to emancipate the spirit, instill pride and increase their visibility as real Americans.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Saadia McConville
Chief Communications Officer, Define American
[email protected]/(410) 693-5196
Brenda Arredondo, The Raben Group
[email protected]/(202) 587-4945