tv Amanpour Company PBS November 23, 2018 12:00am-1:01am PST
hello, everyone. welcome to "amanpour and company." here's what's coming up. a slew of new books portray a reckless foreign policy. the trump administration hallowing out american diplomacy. i get the real deal with the veteran u.s. diplomat william burns. then, as america's powerful reckoned with the me too tsunami, sally fields, the oscar-winning actress, opens up about her own history of abuse. also today, coming out as an illegal immigrant. we talk to jose antonio bargas.
>> uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour and company." when bea tollman founded a collection of boutique hotels, she had bigger dreams, and those dreams were on the water -- a river, specifically -- multiple rivers that would one day be home to uniworld river cruises and their floating boutique hotels. today that dream sets sail in europe, asia, india, egypt, and more. bookings available through your travel agent. for more information, visit uniworld.com. >> additional support has been provided by rosalind p. walter, bernard and irene schwartz, sue and edgar wachenheim iii, the cheryl and philip milstein family, seton melvin, judy weston, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. welcome to the program, everyone. i'm christiane amanpour in new york. there were hugs and handshakes in pyongyang today, as the south korean president moon jae-in
arrived there for his third summit with the north korean leader kim jong-un. the two koreas are pushing ahead with their pursuit of peace on the peninsula amidst mixed messages from washington. and facts on the ground that showed denuclearization talks rth korea is developing its t nuclear weapons program. across all fronts, from trade to nato to the middle east, american diplomacy under president trump is unpredictable to say the least. his leader to leader personal negotiating style seems to be leaving some of his own senior staff scrambling and even undermining the president's promises. veteran diplomat william burns says the hollowing out of u.s. leadership risks undermining the very institutions upon which the international order rests. now, after a distinguished career serving at the highest levels of the foreign service, burns is now president of the carnegie endowment for international peace and william burns is joining me now.
welcome to the program. >> great to be with you. >> so i started by saying there is a whole slew of books as you well know, from bob woodward and many around, the anonymous article, a lot focusing on national security and the trump global agenda. do you agree that it portrays sort of a recklessness, and that fear, according to trump himself, is the guiding foreign policy agenda here? >> i think one of the broad themes in this administration has been kind of a reckless detachment from the kind of responsibilities that, you know, we exercise for a long time. and a dismissiveness of institutions. the president last year when he was asked about the number of vacancies in the state department said, well, i'm the only one who matters. that's a diplomacy of narcissism, not institutions and alliances and coalitions, which is where our real leverage and strength lies in the world. >> so you've talked, and i mentioned about the danger of hollowing out american leadership. not just foreign policy, it is
actually american leadership, which is at stake. do you really see that happening or is america still leading albeit in a way you don't think is particularly constructive? >> i think we're hollowing out. what sets us part from lonelier powers like china and russia, that's alliances and our capacity to build coalitions. i think we're also hollowing out institutions like professional diplomacy as well. and that, i think, comes at a cost, at a moment on the international landscape when so many things are changing anyway, and it is important for the united states to exercise discipline leadership. >> so many, many people around the world praised president trump for going the extra mile to meet with kim jong-un and to try to do something that has failed american administrations today. that is end the nuclearization of the peninsula, try to get kim jong-un back somewhere around, you know, the community of nations. recently there have been duelling comments from the president and his own senior
staff, like national security adviser john bolton about this. president trump praising kim jong-un, john bolton casting doubts on his intentions. let's play a couple of sound bites. >> i just came on stage and i was told that kim jong-un said some terrific things about me, he said, i have faith in president trump. think of this. you don't hear that from them. and just moments ago they put on -- they put on that he said, very strongly, that we want to denuclearize north korea during president trump's tenure. that's a nice -- >> we're still waiting for them. now, the possibility of another meeting between the two presidents obviously exists. but president trump can't make the north koreans walk through the door he's holding open.
they're the ones that have to take the steps to denuclearize, and that's what we're waiting for. >> so i wonder how you read that, on the one hand, if you're north korea and you get all the big promises from the leader of the country, from the president himself, the leader of the free world, and on the other hand, the much more hard-line, hard core national security adviser is seeking looking like he's putting the brakes on those promises. we know he's very disappointed that the north koreans are not actually denuclearizing. is there daylight between president trump and john bolton? >> there certainly appears to be, just in the clips you just ran and the problem with that is that it allows you to be manipulated. if you're kim jong-un, you want to focus on conversations with the president. the president prematurely declared mission accomplished when he, you know, tweeted to americans we don't have anything more to worry about. when in fact we're just at the beginning of a hard process. i have never thought the problem was talking to kim jong-un. not like this will be the last
25 years was filled with achievements and korea diplomacy. the problem is talking past one another, and having much different views of what denuclearization is and the truth is we haven't seen any meaningful concessions on either nuclear missile programs yet from north korea. >> did you think as president trump tweeted that it was significant that the 70th anniversary military parade, which was just held, that didn't include the usual icbm, drag past parade, do you think that was significant? >> i wouldn't dismiss it, nor would i dismiss the fact you haven't had nuclear tests or long range missile tests in recent months either. but i think we have to operate without illusions, the test here is significant concessions in rolling back north korea's nuclear and missile programs and that we haven't seen yet. and the danger is we'll see the chinese in the midst of a trade war with the u.s. taking their foot off the pedal, enforcement of sanctions, the south koreans moving off on their own pathway, the japanese unnerved by this. what is at stake here is our strategic alliances and northeast asia.
>> you mentioned something that is front and center of everybody's minds, the tariffs on china and the tit for tat tariffs from china. a whole new slew put on by president trump last night. hundreds of millions of dollars. where do you think that particular strategy in terms of geopolitics in that region is going to lead? >> the president is right. as his predecessors have been right to focus on the importance of improving access to the chinese economy, of ending the practice of forced transfer of technology, the question is how you go about pursuing those aims. the trans-pacific partnership, the big trade agreement negotiated in the last administration would have been a big asset in knitting together lots of players who share our concerns. in pushing back against the chinese on those issues, we have natural partners in the european union and japan who share many of those concerns, but instead, we're embarking on second and third front trade wars with them. so it is not the goals that i take issue with at all. it is how we're going about pursuing them.
>> so you're talking about second and third, you know, trade wars with them, partly tariffs because of their exports, but also particularly with regard to the iran nuclear deal. so, you know, europeans stand to have sanctions put on them if they continue to do business under the deal with iran, and they're very concerned about it. you were there at the creation when iran was brought into the fold to make these -- make this deal. where do you think this is headed? i mean, president trump doesn't want this deal, wants to collapse it, it seems. >> well, i think it was a major mistake to abandon the deal for the united states to pull out and i think we have followed that step with what i believe is a deeply flawed strategy. i think, you know, the purpose of our policy as i understand it is not so much to produce a better deal, it is to cause the iranian regime either to implode or to capitulate. i think we're overestimating our ability to renew the kind of
economic pressure that brought the iranians to the table seriously several years ago. simply because, again, in the midst of a trade war with china, it is hard to conceive that they're going to easily agree to cut their oil imports from iran as well. i think we're adding to the if i fissures and doing putin's work for him. i think we're adding to the risks of escalation and a part of the world that already has more than its share of instabilities and fragilities. >> can i just be provocative for a second? and throw a devil's advocate question at you. would i be correct in assuming and surmising that neither the u.s. government nor the israeli government under benjamin netanyahu fear an iranian nuclear program? if they did, they wouldn't have pulled out of this deal. >> i think there has been a genuine concern that an unconstrained iranian nuclear program is going to add to risk in the middle east. and that was what i thought was the advantage of pursuing the nuclear agreement of president
obama and john kerry achieved. so i think there was a real risk there. there continues to be a risk in terms of iranian actions to threaten our interests, the interests of our friends in the middle east. i think there is a smart way and dumb way to go about pushing back against that behavior. >> this is a dumb way why? >> because i think what we have done is isolated ourselves rather than the iranians, which is what we spend so many years trying to do. i think we have in a sense let the iranians off the hook because i think it is going to be very hard to rebuild the kind of economic pressure we had before. and i think there is collateral damage as well. by pursuing sanctions in the face of so many other countries including our closest allies, we're going to increase their incentive along with the russians and chinese to reduce the dependency on the dollar and on the american financial system as well. i already mentioned the problem of adding to the fissures between us and our european allies. >> the united states has done something, i mean, kind of incredible.
it has withdrawn all its funding for civilian, humanitarian programs that help the palestinians. whether it is the u.n. related ones or whether it is to ngos, nongovernmental organizations, programs like helping palestinian and israeli girls play soccer together. bridge building, tension reducing kinds of programs. how is that going to help bring the palestinians to the peace table or tamp down the real tensions in that era, in that area. jared kushner, he believes that punishing the palestinian civilians will enable peace, not stall it. >> well, i think that's a flawed approach. i think it is politically counterproductive and morally bankrupt to cut the kinds of assistance that you described before. i think it is based on the false premise. i think it is also based on a number of other notions that somehow overtime you can rent
the acquiesce ens of palestinians by offering a sense of economic possibilities to which the saudis or others might contribute. as you know very well, at the core is a sense of political dignity. i don't think palestinians are going to be bought off. there is also the flawed premise that somehow you can go over the heads of the palestinians and that the saudis and others in the arab world who share israel's concern about iran are going to make concessions with regard to israeli arab peace and ignore the palestinians. >> it does look there is plenty of articles around it and evidence around it that this particular israeli government sees a -- a sort of like minded, kindred spirit in donald trump and is doing a lot to push american foreign policy, which is pushing america out of the role of honest broker. where do you come down on this? how much of an influence does benjamin netanyahu when it comes
to iran policy, the gulf policy, you know, american policy? >> i think there is a confluence of interests over iran, over the palestinian issue right now. as someone who for a very long time has been a very strong supportive israel, i think as friends we need to be honest. and what i fail to see is how israel's long-term security interests, its interests in sustaining what is so important, which is its existence and health and prosperity as a jewish democratic state can be preserved when jews are in the minority in the land that israel controls from the jordan river to the mediterranean. i think demography and the politics that flows from that create realities we need to pay attention to. >> i guess the last question on this particular issue is i assume that under international law, as an occupying power, israel would be forced to pony up to help the palestinians with all this international money or u.s. money being pulled out.
is that correct? and i understand also that prime minister netanyahu agreed to the u.s. pulling out this humanitarian aid and civilian aid against the advice of his own security operations. >> what is striking is that in the past, whenever in congress movements would develop to cut off funding for unra or economic or humanitarian assistance for palestinians, they would suggest this is a bad idea, which made a lot of sense. which is striking now is you don't have that view being offered. i think it is both politically counterproductive and morally bankrupt. >> and then going back to iran, because they believe that this kind of, you know, hard-line pressure on iran would change its behavior. president trump said iran's behavior is already changed as i threatened -- i did pull the u.s. out of the nuclear deal. but has it really, because right
now we're sitting on the brink of potentially a last offensive by syria into the last sort of safe area which is idlib. and you would be part of that, i guess, push. do you see iran having changed that activity in the region and for the better? >> i don't. it is a healthy thing that iran continued to comply with the nuclear agreement. but in the region, i think their behavior, their actions have continued to be threatening. i think in internal terms what we have done in the short-term is strengthen the hand of hard-liners and the people like the supreme leader who have been wanting to say i told you so, you can trust the americans. >> and that finally diplomat to diplomat, current secretary of state pompeo accused former secretary of state john kerry of inappropriately engaging with iranian officials. where do you come down on that? >> i disagree. i mean, i think there is lots of president for former senior officials whether republicans or democrats or professional diplomats like me continuing conversations with people with whom they worked. i think the problem in our approach to iran now is not about those contexts, it is about our policy. >> you, of course, have served many different administrations,
republican and democrat. >> i have. >> thank you for joining us. >> my pleasure. >> thank you. >> so amid the dramatic developments across the world, here at home, people are riveted by the drama that is playing out on capitol hill. brett kavanaugh's fast track to confirmation as the next supreme court justice has stumbled on his own me too moment. accusations, allegations which he denies of sexual molestation dating from his high school days. it is the latest chapter in a public accounting that started this time last year in hollywood. and spread across the country and across the world. now, the celebrated actress sally field has come forward with traumatic stories from her own past. field is one of hollywood's best known actresses with a career that stretches from teen stardom to her award winning work with hollywood's greatest actors and directors. take a look at this iconic movement from her oscar winning performance in the 1979 movie
"norma ray." it is a bit hard to hear under the factory noise, but you'll definitely get the point. >> norma ray. >> -- to get me out of here. i'll wait for it to take me home. i ain't gonna -- until he gets here. >> we'll get sally field to describe that in a moment. she has written a new memoir coming out today called "in
pieces," in which for the first time, hollywood's all-american girl shares the dark secrets of her past. sally field, welcome to the program. >> thank you. >> before i get to the body of your book, which is really quite troubling, actually, and quite brave to recount, i just want you to remind us all of the drama of that moment in "norma ray." not only a great film performance, but a great political, social and cultural moment. >> made by a wonderful man who made films like that when they were done, marty whit. just the moment when she is willing to stand up for what she really ultimately finally realizes she stands for, what she believes in, what she's willing to lose her life, her job, for. and that is for the -- to be treated equally, to be treated fairly by management. and she boldly stands up and refuses to be quiet and slowly but surely you see everyone shuts their machines down in
support of her. and it is really her slow growth into finding her own voice. >> it is it sort of leads me into you finding your own voice. for a long time, you felt invisible as you recount in this book. also the book is published today and i read that even ahead of publication you still were quite nervous about it coming out, wondering whether you would be heard, whether you had done the right thing. tell me about that. >> constantly. it took me seven years to write it. i was impelled to write it. when my mother passed away, i was to disquieted by something that i couldn't find. i thought i had done all the right things. and there was this urgency in me growing that i had to understand something that i couldn't see in front of me. so i had to lay out all the pieces to see if i could put them in place for myself and for no one else. but i had a woman to support me that i reached out to early on in new york, literary agent,
who, you know, wasn't sure i could do it, but kept, you know, touching and say how are you doing, how are you doing? i said to her, molly, i'm going to write this for myself, but i don't know that i'll ever have the guts to publish it. she said, after she read 200 pages about three years ago, she said, i'm going to be the one urging you to publish it. >> well, i mean, it is as i said really troubling, but it is amazing that it comes out at this time when it seems like the world is ready to hear these stories and ready to hold the perpetrators accountable. and you tell very, very painful stories about your stepfather, known as jocco. we'll show pictures of you and your family when you were younger. and that you suffered sexual molestation at his hands. can you describe that?
i want you actually to read from your own book. >> oh, boy. >> if it is too much, i'll read it. >> no, no. okay. i walked on his back until he rolled over, commanding me to keep going, one foot in front of the other up his chest, his hands slid over my legs, then moved up. i walked on this much loved non-father of mine, carefully trying to avoid where he was aiming my feet. >> so what -- how did that affect you? he did not rape you. but he -- he molested you. how did you cope with that as a kid? >> you know, it -- it was my whole life. and it, you know, grew and grew and grew into more kind of erotic play as i got older and older. and as a child at 7 and 8 and 9 and 10, i knew that there was
something inside me that wanted it to stop. but i didn't know it was any different than any other child. i didn't know that it was something -- i had a right to scream about and that it -- that this feeling wasn't just because i was wrong. and, you know, the complication of one of the complications of child abuse, whether it is, you know, sexual or physical or verbal, is that you -- the child is so complicated in its need to be loved, and certainly i was mixed up in how much i adored him, and how much he terrified me. and wired in my brain is that therefore what love was is that you have to also be terrified. you were seen and somehow
valued, but you were terrified and deeply felt you were in danger. so the patterns that get set in a child's mind then is that forever after you were looking to that kind of example as love, no. and i think as adults, our whole lives we're trying to undo some of the webs that are holding on to us from childhood. >> so when you see what is going on right now today, with brett kavanaugh and allegations which he denies, but, you know, allegations that come from the 1970s or a long time ago when they were 17 years old, and people say, oh, well, it was a long time ago. >> that's not right. trust me. it never goes away. it never goes away. whether it's, you know, an abusive stepfather that is throughout your childhood or it is in your young adulthood,
when, you know, somebody believes they have rights that aren't theirs, and it never goes away. the -- i believe that these women have lived with it and swallowed it and tried to submerge it and forget about it, you don't forget about it. and it colors your relationships. trust me. trust me. i trust no one. and that's the truth. i have a very difficult time really letting down and saying, okay, i trust you. >> well, the book makes it very clear that you had very troubled personal relationships. and you had a very difficult relationship with your career as you move from, you know, teen actress to tv and films and all this, and finally yes you won
two oscars and it is brilliant. you have great films to your name and you're iconic in america. but the journey was very, very difficult for you. yeah? >> yes, absolutely. and, you know, what i also wanted to point out is that that journey, that handed down pattern in my life really never went away. so it was hard for me to see any success. it just -- it never penetrated my mind. >> you write about -- you write about that as well, about the difficulty in seeing the success. but first i want you to read a little bit and then i promise i'll stop making you read, but one of the things that really for want of a better word saw your career soar to great heights was the flying nun. i watched it when i was a kid, overseas. we loved it. i was shocked to read how much you didn't love it. and how ridiculous you felt during it. read that, because it is quite profound. >> i couldn't tell if the flying nun was the joke or i was. couldn't distinguish between the bell of my past and the chimes of the present. i felt deeply disgraced as if everyone was laughing at me.
it was all gibberish, not inspired comedic nonsense, but meaningless twaddle with nothing real to relate to. >> how long did it take you to get over that feeling? not just the "flying nun," but everything, your work. >> in the first year of the "flying nun," when i was terribly depressed, natalie sherwood, who played the mother superior, stuffed a note in my hand one day and said, meet me there, tuesday night. you have no excuse, i'll see you there, the actors studio. and it began to transition my life because i met and started working with lee strasburg so that i then could reach out for what i really wanted. when i was 12 years old was the first time i stepped on a stage and at that moment, something happened. it is the art.
it is why the arts should be in every school, for a troubled child the bells rang, the fog cleared, i could hear myself. and then it was gone and i was still -- i was just then a kid, i didn't know what to do with my hands, but i found at the actors studio for the first time i had -- there was a method that i could learn techniques, that i could learn to take me where i wanted to go. >> it is a remarkable transformation. and then, of course, you did -- as i said, films that have stuck in our memory. i want to play a little clip, fast-forwarding many years after the "flying nun," of "forrest gump," where you have tom hanks' mom. >> yes. >> well, i happen to believe you make your own destiny. you have to do the best with what god gave you. >> what's my destiny, mom? >> you're going to have to
figure that out for yourself. life is a box of chocolates, forest. you never know what you're going to get. >> that's so cool. life is a box of chocolates, everybody quotes it. >> i know. >> how do you feel seeing that? how did you enjoy that role? >> i see that now and i never look at this. at the time, when we were doing it and i was in my 40s i guess and i thought, boy, they really aged me, i just look so old, and i thought looked at it now and thought, boy, do i look young. now i can be doing it. it was certainly a wonderful experience in my life to be -- to have the opportunity to play that character. and to age like that, it was -- for an actor to experiment starting with younger than what i was, and then without prosthetics even to age some unknown age that when mama gump
leaves him, and -- >> it is really sad. >> my tomboy. >> really quite poignant, such a great film. right now since burt reynolds died, the focus has been on your relationship with him, and of course with your book and you write about it, which is, again, really interesting. i'm going to read this from your book about burt reynolds who you dated for a long time. burt started to fill me in about his life, the kind of thing you do when you want someone to know who you are and i started to tell my side. little bits of me, i began to get subtle or not so subtle hints that he didn't want to know. i had found someone to love to pull my heart into, someone i felt frightened of. and i was seeking to be loved in the only way i knew how. by disappearing. he died before this book came out. >> yes. >> are you pleased, not pleased he didn't get to read what you felt? >> probably if i were to be really honest i would say i'm pleased he didn't read it.
it would have hurt him, probably, even though i don't think i paint an egregious picture of a terrible guy, i paint a picture of my own process and not being able to get out of it. but it would have hurt him. because he wanted to be a hero. and he was a human. and that's, i think, sometimes more important than being a hero or maybe what i mean is that real humans and being able to be vulnerably wrongly flawed human is a hero. >> you met on the set of "smoky and the bandit." he's quoted as saying that, you know it was love at first sight. he says really sort of fell head over heels for you. you describe not just this paragraph, but in some of the roles you chose, some of the awards ceremonies you wanted to go to, him not being supportive. walk us through some of those. >> you know, i think -- i
describe it in the book, a relationship we just fell into, like we had known each other all of our lives, preformed in my road, literally. a pattern i was destined to just repeat and he, i just began to take care of him and look out after him as if he were much more important than anything i had to do. and so if he needed me, then it meant drop everything that i valued so that i could be there and be kind of diminished. and in reality i was kind of asking to be diminished because i was diminishing myself. >> he didn't believe in the norma ray script, did he? he didn't think you could do it, that it would be any good and then you got a lot of kudos. >> he never said he thought i couldn't do it. he thought it was a piece of trash. and thought it was, you know, i would be playing a whore, which
she isn't, and i honestly think he didn't -- i'm speaking for him, and he can't speak for himself, he didn't want to lose this little help mate i was with unconditionally loving him. i needed nothing in return. i was asking for nothing and just doing -- being everything he needed me to be. because somehow that's what i was taught to be. so i think he didn't want to lose that little -- that little help mate. but the one part of me that i would not tamper with was that part of me. and when that got threatened, when he insulted norma, i stood up for norma and not myself. >> and norma, you, sally field, won an oscar for that role. >> yes. >> and it was remarkable. and then you won another oscar for "places in the heart" in 1985. and that was when your oscar speech went viral if it could have gone viral in those days, amazing pictures of you exultant
and we're not allowed to play it, we have restrictions from oscar films, but i can say, i haven't had an orthodox career, you said, i wanted more than anything to have your respect, you told the audience. the first time i didn't feel it, this time i feel it. and i can't deny the fact that you like me right now, you like me. >> right. >> how did you feel at that time when people thought you had gone over the top? >> you know, i think i did -- i had a survival system that, you know, my childhood both harmed me with and helped me with in the profession i chose. because i have an ability to dive into a fog bank where i just choose not to see what overwhelms me. and it is what i learned to do as a child. and i think it is what i'm probably doing right now in my life. mething.rwhelmed with ought. and i then just sort of fog everything out. also, you know you read it so
accurately of what i said. it is that the immediately categorized it and misquoted it. and to say that i had said something i hadn't said -- >> which is what? >> they always said that i said, you like me, you like me, you really like me. >> you didn't. we just read exactly -- >> i said right now you -- i can't deny that right now you like me. meaning, this could leave tomorrow. but i want to own this second because these are fleeting moments for anybody in the arts, they're fleeting moments and right now i own this. >> but you know what, reading your book, i fully understand why you said that. even without the clarification. because you had gone through such hell on the way to that point, and you had such little confidence in yourself that it seems to me it was just this amazing recognition. >> it wasn't -- i had a lot of confidence in myself in reality. there was a part of me that felt unstoppable.
but they were the -- i had warring factions in myself. pieces of myself that were not connected to each other. so one part was terribly confident, would not be stopped. and the other part wanted to hide. >> the warring factions appear in your book by the absences because you dodged the good bit of your life, so to speak. you've written, why is it easier for me to write about the times in my life that felt humiliating or shameful? is it because those are the things that haunt me? do i hold on to those dark times as a badge of honor? are they my identity? >> mm-hmm. yes. i question it. >> do you know the answer? >> i think i try to answer my own question in there because i think to a degree they have been. i talk in one point how i became my own lore to myself. my own fable. you know, this is who i am. and having to write this and forcing myself to go to the places i didn't want to go, just
as an actor, in really trying to do a character, i would go to places i didn't really want to go and unearth things. and so i think it forced me to look at the places i had been -- i had been culpable in really harmful activities. >> and finally, your life forced you to confront your mother as she was dying and you had all of these horrendous feelings about the abuse that you had suffered and her role in at least -- not only -- >> not knowing what it ever was. >> tell me, how did you make peace with that? >> the tail end of the book, the real reason i wrote it is to put all of that together, which culminates with the last conversation that i have with hersh the last real conversation where i tell her, and, you know, things that she had mentioned
that i throughout the years that i wrote in my journal that i kept journals for 40 years and immediately raced from my mind that i had gone back because i was writing this book to uncover things i didn't know. but i asked her, i told her what had happened, and ultimately what she did in return is simply triumphant. >> what did she do? >> well, if i tell you that, it will spoil the end. you'll know who done it. >> all right, sally field. i'll let people read it. it is a really compelling book and it is clearly taken a lot out of you and a lot of years. thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. and now we turn to the immigration crisis that continues to tear at america's soul. the u.s. government is now holding a record number of immigrant children in custody 12,800 to be precise.
this broken system is unsparing from the most vulnerable children to those closest to power. jose antonio vargas was already an accomplished journalist when he wrote a blockbuster essay for the "new york times." my life as an undocumented immigrant. he's now the founder of the nonprofit define american, trying to reframe the conversation and even the terms we use. and he's author of a new book "dear america, notes of an undocumented citizen." he told our alicea menendez his amazing story. she teamed up with him to start that organization define american. here is their conversation. >> what i remember most about your coming out was that you were very prepared for what those who are anti-immigrant would say. >> very prepared. >> less so prepared for what members of the immigrant rights community would think about you. >> progressives in general. as a journalist, i never
identified as either. i'm gay, undocumented, filipino, for some people that would just automatically mean i'm a progressive. since i never voted, i never really claimed a party in that way. so being thrust into this immigrant rights racial justice progressive movement was really new to me. especially on the other side, right. >> it was new to you and people who were very resentful about the fact you had not shown up sooner. >> protesting since we were in high school. you know, while you were lying and making money, you know, at the "washington post" and the "chronicle" and all these other places you were working at, right? there was a lot of not only resentment, but just uncertainty about what is he going to do? >> was that fair? >> you know, look, was it fair, i don't -- no, personally for me it wasn't. people cling on to what they
fear because it is a lot easier. and in college, i majored in african-american studies and political science and so, like, so much of what i learned about america was from kind of the perspective of people who had always challenged america. so i was coming from this place of no, we're challenging the definition of it. this is not some blind patriotism. right. and patriotism, what is wrong with patriotism? there is nothing wrong with saying, i think, right, that i am proud to be an american. i am proud of it. but i think with that pride comes to the criticisms and the fact that this country is not only imperfect, right, but we're living in a crisis. our democracy is in crisis. i think those two things can co-exist. >> bill o'reilly called you the most famous illegal in america. despite the juxtaposition of words. how has your notoriety protected you? >> i'm sure it protected me. i'm definitely sure of that. i think the guilt that i carry because of that, right, you know, in the book, i write for
the first time about what happened when i was arrested in texas, summer of 2014, and how i got out. right. i was detained for eight hours in mcallen, the same place where the kids are being locked up with families, well, separate with families, and i got out after eight hours. and i didn't really want to know how i got out. but in writing the book i had to figure out who we called and why. >> because of the guilt? >> the guilt about i get arrested, it is breaking news on cnn, right, and people care. people are getting arrested and detained every day. >> mom gets her kid ripped from her at the border, and she's anonymous. >> she's anonymoanonymous. and i think we're getting at a point now in this country where i don't know about you it just so much that i can't process everything. i have to keep looking at it. i have to keep reading it. i have to keep watching. we should not be desensitized from it, right? so that has been hard. when bill o'reilly said that, i
think at the same interview he said i don't deserve to be in america. right, which gets us to this question of wait a second, like, you know, what does bill o'reilly -- what has he done to deserve to be in america too? i think that's, you know, just kind of flipping the question around. so when i wrote that, i really wanted to pose the question to the readers and the audience about this process of earning and what that is about. like, you're a u.s. citizen because you're born here, right? so is that it? congratulations. the accident of birth? and then we're telling people across this country that, you know, they have to earn their citizenship while we talk about them like they're insects off our backs, and we treat them like criminals? what are we doing? i have three questions, where did you come from, how did you get here, who paid? if you can't answer those three questions, you have no right to
talk to anyone about what borders they cross, right. or what laws they're breaking. >> really break it down for people. 12 years old, your mom takes you to the airport in the philippines, and she puts you on a plane. why were you not able to come to the united states legally? >> because my grandparents could not petition me, so it is not considered a close enough of a relationship for my grandpa or grandma, though they're u.s. citizens, to petition a grandson, right. >> do we know how much your mother paid that smuggler to take you on that plane? >> my mother couldn't pay. it was my grandfather, right. it was $4,500. >> how did he get that money? >> saved. can you imagine? can you imagine how much time was spent trying to save that money? when i think back on it now, i'm trying to understand, like, how long they had planned it. and how much my mother who didn't have the money really understood what she was doing. like when she said, yeah, he can come, did she really know what
that meant? i don't know. like, you know, my grandmother was a food server. she made maybe $4.50 an hour when i first got here. $5 maybe. my grandfather was a security guard, he made a little more, like $6 or $7 an hour. and so i -- it was interesting when you add it up, the fact that they had to take care of a family here including me and then at the same time provide for a family back in the philippines, which, again, is the reality for so many immigrants in this country, right? and then the kind of cycle of dependency that gets created, that they take care of my mom so now i take care of my mom and then the cycle goes on and on and on. >> how long did it take before you realized she was never coming? >> i didn't realize that until i found out i was here illegally, which was four years later, when i tried to apply for a driver's license, which is, like, is there anything more american than driving? i was 16. my friend arvin murphy was, like, i'm tired of driving you around, in the nicest possible
way, and that's when all the lies i had been told started unraveling. that's why for me, in writing the book, there are 11 million undocumented people in this country, though i would argue there is far more than 11 million people. i think if we counted all the undocumented white people and the undocumented black people and undocumented asian people we rarely talk about, i think it is more than 11 million people. but in writing the book, i really struggle to try to figure out how do i write this in such a way that other people who may not share my specific circumstances, right, could relate to it. and so coming up with this idea would matter, that these phases that we live through, which is we lie, we pass, we try to pass, and we hide. so -- >> up until 16, you're not lying. you're in the dark and i think there are people who watch and say, but you're very smart. how did you make it to 16 and not put all the pieces together? >> how could i -- that the
point, that was four years of probably the most innocent time i had for myself. like, when i look back at that time, you know, i was a sponge. i just absorbed everything. and i -- no one around me was undocumented. and mind you, at that time, no social media, no internet, whenever anybody said anybody was quote/unquote illegal or whenever anybody talked about the wall or the border or immigration, it was always about mexican people. and so this was never -- i just never thought of it as my problem. >> you came out, there was response from those who were anti-immigrant, the response from the progressive and response from your peers, your journalist peers, and then the fundamental question was can you write about politics? can you write about immigration when you have such a personal story that is at the heart of the issue.
>> that was certainly the question back in 2011, originally my coming out essay was supposed to be in the "washington post," not the "new york times." the "washington post" killed the story and i had to rally to get it to the "new york times." the "washington post" had to write a story about why they killed my story. and the headline was why did the "washington post" deport jose antonio vargas' story. i hadn't read it until i wrote the book. >> why? >> i didn't want to read it because it was so painful. journalism is sacred to me. journalism is why i exist, right? it is -- it is the way i've been able to write myself into america. and i felt at that time i was deported from my own industry. it was so painful. and to have all these people i respected say how do you trust a
liar, back then, people were saying this was a conflict of interest, so interesting. after trump's election, those same people now i think are finally understood we're talking about a human rights issue. >> do you really believe though that journalists changed their stance, that now having a personal experience of something does not prohibit you from -- >> i think that process started. i think that process, the same process if you think about it that we went through during the civil rights movement. the '50s and '60s. and during the gay rights movement that just happened, and is still happening, right. journalists had to figure out what are we really talking about here? why are people's existence being politicized. i think you're seeing now more journalists and more institutions like the "new york times" and "washington post" question their own newsrooms. the "new york times" and the "washington post" which helps set the agenda for many news
organizations still refer to people as illegal. they still use the word illegal immigrant. that hasn't stopped yet. and we'll keep pressuring them to do that. >> for much of your life you define yourself by writing, by journalist. >> in a way, it became kind of my own wall. it was easier to write about other people than have to deal with myself. right. so when i was quote/unquote -- i wasn't that anymore to people, all of a sudden, i'm, like, who am i? i had to deal with that. >> after you lie and pass and hide, for so long, how do you answer that question? >> i think you answer it by being as uncompromising, being as uncompromising as possible in trying to understand what motivates your actions and why you do what you do. why do i do what i do? why haven't i just left? sometimes people on twitter, god, i love people who take time to, like, write you e-mails, you know? they see something on twitter and they hate whatever, they write me an e-mail and one time someone actually said, you know,
you're being really selfish. your mom may die sometime soon and if she dies, you're not there. right. or when somebody says, why don't you just leave? and i ask myself, why don't i just leave? well, because this is where -- america is where i became who i am. migrating to this country is not only as simple as looking at the statue of liberty and, you know, wanting the american dream. many of us come here because you were in our countries. right. like what is the united states doing to el savl -- salvadore or kwa guatemala? some people in the news media would call it a global migration crisis. i actually consider it a natural progression of history. right? if the western world can come to our countries, to those
countries, right? and move to those countries, forcibly move to the countries to build their economies. so why can't people move now? >> i want to read from the book. you write, the truth is, if mom had known than what she knows now, that calling her on the phone is difficult because i can't pretend i know the voice on the other end of the line. on a rare phone call, she said, i look at you now, the person you've pe come, abecome, and ho have any regrets? i'm sure she meant it as a statement, but it sounded like a question. the truth is, there is a part of me, uncertain how much, that is still on the airplane wondering why mama put me there. have you forgiven your mom? >> oh, my god, yes. i actually think the question now is i wonder if she's forgiven me. like i wonder if -- i wonder if she understands that it is more than the money that i send or
the clothes or the lancome makeup that she likes from macy's, that -- that i don't make sense without her, right, and that the sacrifices, really for a mother, ultimate sacrifice she made, is something that i'm trying to honor by doing what i do. i got to tell you, though, i can't wait to, like, see her in person and say thank you in person without any cameras or without anybody else seeing it. >> i want to ask about that. at the end of the book, you do give her the last word, and she says, maybe it is time to come home. >> yeah. >> and i wonder if you were a person for whom there is a home. >> i think -- i think defining home is something that is going to be the work of my life. i think defining home for people
who feel like they're not at home, you know, we live in -- we're in new york, we live in a country where puerto ricans in this country after that hurricane feel like even though they're citizens of the country illegally, they don't feel they are. i would argue the black lives matter movement is a question of citizenship. one of the co-founders of the movement said that. this is actually about citizenship and who gets to belong that this country and call it what it is. i think that question of home is something that all of us grapple with and i think that that is going to be the work of my life. is figuring that out. >> jose, thank you so much. >> thank you for having me. >> and the sacrifices for citizenship that antonio talks about are so poignant, his unresolved relationship with his mother and how they can be together and, of course, reminding everyone here in the united states that so many of the refugees and immigrants that come here are because of what u.s. foreign policy was towards their own countries historically. a really important point.
and the question of home is even more pressing as with millions of displaced people all over the world, the trump administration plans to slash the number of refugees allowed into the u.s. to just 30,000. it is a record low at a time when the u.n. is saying the crisis of refugees, the surge in the number of refugees around the world is unprecedented. for now, though, that is it for our program. thanks for watching. "amanpour and company" on pbs. join us again tomorrow. >> uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour and company."
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