Los Angeles Times officials are partnering with Jose Vargas, an openly illegal immigrant, for a new editorial venture.
The project is "a multimedia platform which will explore the evolving American identity in the 21st century," read a release.
Vargas is an outspoken activist for immigration reform, particularly reform that would include amnesty for the millions of immigrants living illegally in the U.S. He is also a veteran journalist who came out in 2011 as an unlawful American resident.
A Times spokeswoman told the Washington Examiner media desk that Vargas is not joining the publication in an activist role, but strictly as a journalist. His nonprofit Define American is not involved in the project, the spokeswoman said.
Separately, the Times said in its announcement of the partnership that "Vargas will lead an effort to write commentary and produce original video, graphics and other digital content that focuses on the intersection of race, immigration, identity and the complexities of multiculturalism. #EmergingUS will aim to illuminate these issues and create a dialogue at a time when demographic shifts are transforming the face of America."
Vargas' Define America describes itself on its web site as "a media and culture campaign using the power of story to transcend politics and shift conversation around immigration, identity, and citizenship in America. To start, the conversation is about immigration. Our immigration system is broken — and fixing it requires a conversation that's bigger and more effective than the one that we've become accustomed to."
Define American received two separate grants in 2011 worth a total of $107,550 from the Tides Foundation, according to foundationsearch.org. Tides is one of the oldest left-leaning dark money funding sources in American politics. "Dark money" consists of funds from donors seeking to remain anonymous by giving to an intermediary like Tides that in turn distributes the money to groups like Define American.
Before revealing his immigration status, Vargas, 33, worked as a reporter for the Washington Post, then as an editor at the Huffington Post. He also created a documentary about AIDS in Washington, D.C., and wrote a profile on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker.
At the Times, Vargas "will lead an effort to write commentary and produce original video, graphics and other digital content that focuses on the intersection of race, immigration, identity and the complexities of multiculturalism," the release said. The project was dubbed "#EmergingUS"
"Jose is uniquely suited to look at the issues and find and tell stories that will inform all of us," said Times Publisher Austin Beutner.