‘Documented’ details struggles of immigration, inspires freshman class


Samantha Carrizal / Hilltop Views

Freshman students were invited to a viewing of Jose Antonio Vargas’ documentary which is also based on his book. The film deals with his struggles of immigration, which was the common theme chosen for this year’s freshman class.

Many freshmen witnessed their summer reading come to life at the screening of “Documented,” an autobiographical documentary by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, filmmaker and immigration rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas.

The screening was held last Friday in Carter Auditorium as part of the  Freshmen Seminar and was connected to this year’s Common Theme book, “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen,” also written by Vargas. 

Both the documentary and book chronicle Vargas’ journey from the Philippines to America, as well as his experience growing up undocumented and his struggles as a journalist. Scenes where Vargas facetimes his mother for the first time in 30 years or where he has a conversation with the opposing side about immigration were especially tear jerking, something not many students were expecting, despite having read the book.

“It was definitely more vivid than the book,” freshman Graciela Sayen said. “The book was very well-written, but with the film, you’re able to see it. I’m a visual learner, so  I was able to connect more than reading it on paper.” 

This type of connection is what Alex Barron, Director of Freshman Seminar, was looking for. Since this year’s theme is citizenship, Barron wanted something that not only reflected the St. Edward’s mission, but gave students a more personal narrative on “defining American” and what being undocumented is  like. 

“We felt that this is the way to help people understand what the reality of life may be like for people who are undocumented,” Barron said. “It’s not just telling you about facts and figures. It’s telling you what your heart might feel like or what your family might look like.”

Following the screening was a short discussion about the film and how we as a society define American. Students were also asked to share their thoughts. Some announced organizations that advocate for immigration rights. 

Others, such as freshman Agnes Muffle, briefly shared their own stories. Muffle explained how she strongly connected to the book and how the theme of citizenship was something she didn’t expect, but is glad is being talked about.

“It was nice knowing there was going to be a conversation,” Muffle said. “It definitely felt very welcoming.”

The Freshman Seminar will have Vargas as a guest speaker on Oct. 10 in the RCC Gym. Students interested can find more information on the St. Edward’s University Events Calendar online.