Many of Jose Antonio Vargas' supporters attended his recent , and when he publicly acknowledged them, they received applause from the audience.
But then again, this is California and not Alabama.
In June, the state of Alabama passed one of the toughest anti-illegal immigrant laws in the country and made it a crime to hire, rent and even give car rides to undocumented immigrants. Georgia passed one in May similar to the Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, signed into law in 2010.
If California had passed stringent anti-immigration laws, would Vargas still have received all of the help he did?
"I don't think educators will sign up for this duty and become agents of the government," said Pat Hyland, Vargas' former high school principal and now dean at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. "I wouldn't be surprised if [immigration and customs enforcement] showed up at the doors of any school, which I'm not sure if they would, and find an unwelcome reception."
Vargas, who arrived in the United States at the age of 12 from the Philippines, has lived in the country illegally for 18 years. He grew up in Mountain View and attended and . He didn't know of his illegal status until he tried to get a driver's license at 16. That's when all of his lying began.
"You gotta do what you gotta do," he told the attendees at the event on Monday in San Francisco.
But Vargas managed to excel and achieve things that some only dream of—partly through his hard work and partly because of the help of the friends and adults who knew his situation in Mountain View.
In the New York Times essay where he breaks the news of his status, Vargas identifies certain individuals, including Hyland, Rich Fischer—the former superintendent of the —and his former choir teacher, Jill Denny. All knew and protected him.
His classmates, those privy to the information, also did, and as he did not have a license, they drove him around—an act now illegal in Alabama.
"Most of us were not immigrants. We were just kids who grew up on Mountain View or Los Altos," said Alex Coonce. She graduated from MVHS with Vargas in 2000. "When you know people, it's not about the concept of illegal immigrants."
Hyland, however, did carefully consider what she would have done different.
"The humanitarian part of me would answer the question 'likely,' but I don't know the policies of other states," Hyland said, who added that it would be hard to find that she's participated in anything illegal in her background. "I don't know how I'd be in another situation."
the current superintendent of the high school district, Barry Groves, and to the spokeswoman from the police department about local enforcement of immigration laws.
"Thankfully, there are Pat Hylands and Rich Fischers all across America," he said. "They are not just Mountain View."
Click on the video to listen to Vargas' entire response.