Immigration Activist Jose Antonio Vargas Detained by U.S. Border Officials

The Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and undocumented migrant Jose Antonio Vargas was apparently detained in Texas on Tuesday, while attempting to leave the border city of McAllen following a trip he made there to visit a center where other migrants without papers are being held.


In an article he wrote for Politico magazine last week, Vargas said that before he went to McAllen, he didn't realize he might not be able to leave, because of security intended to prevent undocumented migrants who cross the border going elsewhere in the US.

There are immigration checkpoints set up on roads within 45 miles of the town of McAllen, and Customs and Border Protection agents check identification as people pass through TSA checkpoints at the city's airport.

Vargas and his colleagues appeared to have prepared for his possible detention in advance. Vargas tweeted about approaching TSA checkpoints with only his Philippine passport, and minutes after he was detained a campaign to "Stand with Jose and the #BorderChildren" was announced by Define American, an organization he founded.

“We are calling on President Obama and Secretary [Jeh] Johnson to execute prosecutorial discretion, and immediately release Jose Antonio Vargas from Customs and Border Protection,” said Ryan Eller, campaign director with Define American.

Eller said Vargas was attempting to fly to Los Angeles for a screening of his film Documented when he was detained. Eller said he believes Vargas is being questioned by CBP in McAllen.

Vargas came to the US as a child from the Philippines. He has a Philippine passport, but is, as he revealed in a 2011 article for the New York Times Magazine, an undocumented migrant.

This is not Vargas's first encounter with immigration officials. In 2012, he was stopped by local authorities in Minnesota after driving with headphones on, and detained after a check revealed that his Washington state driver's license was revoked. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials declined to press charges because they said Vargas didn't pose a threat to public safety.

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