He's an award-winning journalist born in the Philippines. She's a prize-winning humanitarian born in India. He's a 2000 graduate of . She's a 2009 graduate of Los Altos High. Both grew up in Mountain View.
In the last two days, the national press has focused on Mountain View and not because Google launched a new product or scientists at NASA Ames made a discovery; but because Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas and UC Davis pre-med student Mandeep Chahal lived and studied here as undocumented students.
Vargas hid his undocumented status, but decided to announce it today as part of his new documentary project and non-profit venture "Define American." In contrast, Chahal's undocumented status because today she would have been deported if not for an eleventh hour reprieve.
"They were both incredibly ambitious students in high school, who worked hard, who are very accomplished and have gone on to do outstanding things," said Barry Groves, superintendent of (MVLA). "It's sad that the DREAM Act failed by a few votes."
Grove made it clear to Mountain View Patch that this was his opinion and not of the district.
"It's not only affecting these [former] high school students but other students who may not be as motivated and this is affecting them everyday," he said. "I'm a supporter of the federal and California DREAM Act."
The DREAM Act, the legislative bill that came close to passage last year, would have helped qualifying undocumented students like Vargas and Chahal get on the path toward citizenship. Now, telling the story of undocumented students has become Vargas' new journalist endeavor, if not obsession.
At a gathering in her home, Susan Sweeley, a mentor to Vargas and president of MVLA Board of Trustees, watched Vargas–as part of his documentary–tell a roomful of people he knew from the community that he was undocumented. Sweeley, who's known about Vargas' situation for awhile, confessed she's now more worried about Vargas.
"I know that it's risky for him to be doing this and I'm worried about him, absolutely," she said. "But he's compelled to advocate for the DREAM Act and he's a perfect example as to why the DREAM Act should be enacted."
"But I'm worried about him personally."
The cases of Vargas and Chahal, two individuals brought illegally to the United States as children, raise questions about the role of school officials, local police departments and federal agencies in the enforcement of immigration law for school-age children.
According to Groves, he has no idea how many undocumented students attend MVHS and LAHS. He added that usually, school staff wouldn't find out until the student's senior year when it came time to apply for colleges and the student couldn't apply for financial aid.
Groves acknowledged, however, that federal law has jurisdiction to enforce immigration laws–even on campus–but that he had never heard of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency raid a school campus.
spokeswoman Liz Wylie also stated that she's never heard of ICE going on to a campus.
"I don't think ICE would go to a school because what student carries around immigration papers with them?" she said. "If they go to a home they usually know people living there that are undocumented. But when you go to a school, who would you walk up to?"
Like Groves, Wylie explained that immigration enforcement falls to the federal government. She added, however, that "we don't have a care in the world which students are here illegally. That's not our role in society."
"We just want them to get an education," she said.
Wylie confirmed that if ICE asked for their collaboration, the MVPD would cooperate. "When they do a raid it's based on credible information that they have."
In a request for comment Virginia Kice, western spokeswoman for ICE, stated that "our officers and agents prioritize cases involving individuals who present the most significant threat to public safety."
With the attention upon successful Mountain View graduates and the DREAM Act, Sweeley couldn't help but wonder if perhaps some people would change their mind about immigration reform and kids like Vargas and Chahal.
"I don't know that it's going to change peoples' minds who are already made up," she said. "But I don't see how people couldn't look at Jose and see how he's a perfect example of an American who should have a path towards citizenship."