Our Story

It all started with a question: How do you define American?

Define American was founded in 2011 by Jose Antonio Vargas, who recruited three media professional friends to launch a campaign to bring U.S. citizen allies' voices into the national conversation on immigration in order to fix a broken system.

Our founding team consisted of:

Headshot of Jose Antonio Vargas. In the background is a hand-lettered sign saying 'I am an American w/o papers.'

Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and Tony-nominated producer.

Headshot of Jake Brewer.

Jake Brewer was a pioneer in the civic tech space and a senior technology advisor for the Obama White House.

Headshot of Jehmu Greene.

Jehmu Greene is a progressive political analyst for Fox News and the former president of the Women's Media Center and Rock the Vote.

Headshot of Alicia Menendez.

Alicia Menendez is an anchor for MSNBC, the creator and host of the Latina to Latina podcast, and the author of The Likeability Trap.

We sparked nationwide conversations around immigration and the power of visibility.

Jose Antonio Vargas, founder of Define American, and 35 other undocumented or formerly undocumented Americans appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine in June 2012 with the bold title of, “We Are Americans*,” an initiative orchestrated by Define American and America’s Voice.

In 2011, Jose came out as undocumented in a New York Times Magazine essay “Outlaw: My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant,” shattering public perceptions about undocumented people.

By asking hard questions around identity, humanity and how we treat one another in this country, we began to reframe what it means to be undocumented in America.

Watch "Documented"

Through storytelling, we began to shine a light on the many voices and experiences that constitute America.

Alicia Garza under the text 'Black people, I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives matter. Black lives matter.'
Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

LA-based DJ Zacil Pech in front of a colorful mural, hand on hip, in white with gold hoops and an undercut.
LA Made: Zacil Pech

LA Made: Zacil Pech

Cristina Morales performing in a blond wig, corset, and red fan, facing out into a dark bar and bright stage lights.
Entre Nosotras

Entre Nosotras

Humberto and Nakia, a couple, holding each other and smiling.
Immigration Is Love

Immigration Is Love

Climate activist Xiye Bastida
We Rise

We Rise

To shift the conversation away from politics and focus on the value of humanizing the millions that now call America their home, we created content that highlights their individual stories.

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We advocated for those without a voice, creating groundbreaking campaigns and taking to the streets to engage communities across the country.

Define American chapter members and leaders took part in the 2019 Home Is Here rally outside the Supreme Court.

We launched grassroots advocacy work and created a chapters program to engage young people on immigration.

And we continued to ask questions, interrogating issues of race and identity in a demographically shifting country.

Directed by Define American founder Jose Antonio Vargas, White People asked young Americans to speak candidly about “whiteness,” race, and equity.

Watch "White People"

We believe in the power of media to humanize the immigrant narrative, one story at a time.

Whether in Hollywood, newsrooms, tech, or research institutes, Define American partners with thought leaders and media professionals to create an America where everyone belongs.