Breakdown of “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen”


Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen was written by Jose Antonio Vargas and published in 2018. Vargas shares his life story from the time he was a twelve year old boy in the Philippines, all the way up until present day. Vargas shares his struggles of being an illegal immigrate in the United States. The book is separated into three parts. Part one includes Vargas’s childhood and talks about how he struggled to adapt to his new country. Part two discusses his teen years in adulthood and how he had to lie about his citizenship to be able to get a college education. He eventually can not deal with the hardships of keeping this secret and publishes an article admitting that he is an undocumented citizen. Vargas concludes the book in part three by discussing the effect that the Trump administration has on him. He also talks about being arrested by the Mexican border but was released. With the pressure of keeping a secret and hiding from the law, he publishes an article that outs himself as an undocumented citizen.

Significant Events/Incidents

The beginning of the book talk about Vargas’s journey from the Philippines to America. He was awoken by his mother in the middle of the night telling him to get up and grab a coat. He did just that and got in a cab with his mother and headed to the airport. Once there they met with a man that he was told was an uncle. Once making it to America he moved into a house with his grandparents and uncle. He thought he came over legally and in a few months so would his mother but, she never was able to come. Later on he found out that the man was a smuggler and that he was here illegally and all his papers were fake.

Vargas’s fake green card

As Vargas gets older he decides to become a journalist. As he tries to pursue this career he runs into many roadblocks due to him not being able to provide a Social Security card. Because of this he talks to a immigration lawyer and was told that his only option was to return to the Philippines for ten years before being able to return to the United States. While he does consider it, a mentor from high school, Rich, tells him to “put the problem on a shelf” and “keep going,” and he follows this advice (82).

While on a journalistic team, Vargas wins a Pulitzer Prize. For everyone else this was exciting and great news but, for Vargas he was in panic mode. He goes on to write, “the lies had gotten so big that they swallowed everything up, including all the good things” (105). That was the same day that he decided to write an article outing himself as an undocumented citizen.