WASHINGTON -- A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covered the Virginia Tech massacre for the Washington Post went public Wednesday with a secret he says he has been keeping for nearly two decades: He is an illegal immigrant.
Jose Antonio Vargas, whose mother sent him from the Philippines to live with his grandparents in California when he was 12, says that now he wants to push Congress to pass a bill called the DREAM Act that would allow people like him to become citizens.
''I'm done running. I'm exhausted,'' Vargas wrote in a New York Times Magazine essay posted online Wednesday. ''I don't want that life anymore.''
Vargas referred a request for comment from The Associated Press to his public relations team, which did not immediately make him available Wednesday. He also spoke to ABC News in interviews that will air today and Friday.
He says he didn't know about his citizenship status until four years after he arrived in the U.S., when he applied for a driver's permit and handed a clerk his green card.
''This is fake,'' a Department of Motor Vehicles clerk said, according to Vargas' account. ''Don't come back here again.''
Vargas confronted his grandfather, who acknowledged he purchased the green card and other fake documents.
''I remember the very first instinct was, OK, that's it, get rid of the accent,'' Vargas told ABC. ''Because I just thought to myself, you know, I couldn't give anybody any reason to ever doubt that I'm an American.''
His grandfather imagined the fake documents would help Vargas get low-wage jobs. College seemed out of reach, until Vargas told Mountain View High School Principal Pat Hyland and school district Superintendent Rich Fisher about his problem. They became mentors and surrogate parents, eventually finding a scholarship fund for high-achieving students that allowed him to attend San Francisco State University.