When Jose Antonio Vargas profiled Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker in September 2010 not very many people knew the exclusive story was written by an undocumented immigrant. A year later, Vargas, a Pulitzer winning journalist, went on to make headlines himself when he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times Magazine disclosing his undocumented status.
Vargas and Zuckerberg met again in San Francisco on Monday night for a special screening of “Documented,” Vargas’ new documentary that looks at his experience becoming the most famous undocumented immigrant in the nation. The documentary includes heartbreaking footage of how current U.S. policies keep some families separated.
The screening, hosted by Zuckerberg’s political action committee FWD.us, brought together some of Silicon Valley’s most successful leaders to talk about immigration reform.
The 757-seat theater at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts was filled with tech workers and entrepreneurs who sat next to day laborers, DREAMers and a number of other individuals who identified as undocumented immigrants.
"This very room represents what immigration reform is,” Zuckerberg said before he introduced Vargas to the stage.
“People talk about high skill H1-B’s and the issues tech companies have and full comprehension immigration reform as if they’re two completely different separate issues,” Zuckerberg said, referring to the employer sponsored work visas for immigrants with highly specialized skills.
“But anyone who knows a DREAMer knows that they’re not,” Zuckerberg went on to say.
“No matter where they were born, [these students] are going to be tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and people creating jobs in this country,” he told the audience. “These are issues that don’t just touch our part of the industry, but really touch a whole country.”
Zuckerberg cited a recent study that found that about half of the fortune 500 companies in the U.S. were founded by immigrants or their children.
Day laborers and DREAMers who spoke with Fusion appreciated Zuckerberg’s comments.
“I think what Mark Zuckerberg is doing is really important because through him people will be learn that millions of immigrants exist in this country,” Alma Vega told Fusion. Vegas is part of a group of mothers who call themselves DREAMers’ Moms and drove to San Francisco from Mesa, Arizona picking up mothers along the way. By the time she arrived to San Francisco there were 10 mothers traveling with her.
“I think films like ‘Documented’ are important because it represents what some families in this country live through,” said Gabriel Torrez. He traveled with 20 other day laborers from the Day Worker Center of Mountain View, California.
“I think films like this are important to make people conscience of our experiences and hopefully elected officials or the president will see the film,” Torrez went on to say.
Ruchi Sangvhi, the first female engineer at Facebook who’s now at Dropbox, spoke on a panel at the screening and pointed out that while the so called high skilled workers and low-skilled workers may have different experiences they both face similar uncertainties.
“Finding a job, choosing where you work, choosing where you live, should all be fundamental choices but as an immigrant these are just hard stressful decisions and you’re basically surrounded by uncertainty all the time,” Ruchi, who was born in India, said at panel after the film.