LIFESTYLE

Pulitzer Prize Winner Once Was Undocumented

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - APRIL 18, 2011:    Reporter Jeff Gottlieb, Editor Russ Stanton, reporter Ruben Vives and photographer Barbara Davidson celebrate the 2 Pulitzer Prizes won by the Los Angeles TImes on April 18, 2011.  Staff photographer Barbara Davidson won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography: she spent two years recording the struggles of victims and their families to recover from the effects of violent crime.   Gottlieb and Vives won for public service for stories uncovering shocking financial corruption in the city of Bell.   (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times)

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - APRIL 18, 2011: Reporter Jeff Gottlieb, Editor Russ Stanton, reporter Ruben Vives and photographer Barbara Davidson celebrate the 2 Pulitzer Prizes won by the Los Angeles TImes on April 18, 2011. Staff photographer Barbara Davidson won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography: she spent two years recording the struggles of victims and their families to recover from the effects of violent crime. Gottlieb and Vives won for public service for stories uncovering shocking financial corruption in the city of Bell. (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times)

Among the Pulitzer Prize winners announced Monday afternoon: Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Vives, who along with Jeff Gottlieb spearheaded the story of widespread municipal corruption in the city of Bell. That reporting saved California taxpayers millions in ill-gotten gains.

Well, turns out Vives very nearly wasn’t around to do that stellar bit of reporting. As a child, he was illegally in this country.

In a piece in Orange Coast magazine, columnist Shawn Hubler tells the dramatic story: Vives’s Guatemalan mother, a nanny in the U.S., had him brought over the border to join her a few years after emigrating. Planning to go back to Guatemala, she never legalized him, and the six-year-old grew into a 17-year-old with no idea that he was undocumented.

How did Hubler know the story? Vives’s mother was her nanny, and she helped the then-shell-shocked teen get his immigration papers. A clerical job at a newspaper paid his tuition through college, and a few years later he was given a chance at reporting from a little town named Bell.

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