Undocumented immigrant and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas has been released by McAllen, Texas Border Patrol after being detained for several hours.“As an unaccompanied child migrant myself, I came to McAllen, Texas, to shed a light on children who parts of America and many in the news media are actively turning their backs on,” Vargas said in a statement. “But what I saw was the generosity of the American people, documented and undocumented, in the Rio Grande Valley. I’ve been released by Border Patrol. I want to thank everyone who stands by me and the undocumented immigrants of south Texas and across the country.”
Border Patrol arrested the activist in Texas on Tuesday during his attempt to pass through security at McAllen-Miller International Airport, United We Dream said in a statement. Vargas is associated with the nonpartisan network, which advocates for the fair treatment of immigrant youths and their families.
He was questioned by Border Patrol on Tuesday morning, said Ryan Eller, director of Define American, an initiative that Vargas founded.
Upon Vargas’s release, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency released the following statement:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol Agents operating at McAllen-Miller International Airport encountered Mr. Vargas and apprehended him after he stated that he was in the country illegally. Mr. Vargas was transported to the McAllen Border Patrol Station where he was processed and provided with a Notice to Appear before an immigration judge. He was released on his own recognizance after consultation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Mr. Vargas has not previously been arrested by ICE nor has the agency ever issued a detainer on him or encountered him. ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the agency’s resources to promote border security and to identify and remove criminal individuals who pose a threat to public safety and national security.
A Filipino-born activist, reporter, and filmmaker, Vargas is arguably the most famous undocumented immigrant in the United States. He emigrated from the Philippines when he was 12 years old, and revealed his true immigration story in a 2011 New York Times article. Vargas explained in the article that he didn’t know his green card was fake until he tried to apply for a driver’s permit at the age of 16.
Vargas recently gained attention with the release of his new film, “Documented,” which explains his predicament. Before being arrested Tuesday, he had attempted to board a plane to Los Angeles for a screening of the new movie.
Vargas traveled to McAllen, Texas, last week to document the humanitarian crisis at the southwestern border, where more than 52,000 children have arrived from Central American countries since October. He soon discovered that he lacked the documents necessary to leave the town.
Just last Friday, Vargas published an article in Politico titled, “Trapped on the Border.”
“I’ve been the most privileged undocumented immigrant in the country,” he wrote, adding that he has traveled non-stop in more than 40 states for three years.