Immigration Activist Jose Antonio Vargas Detained At Texas Airport

Immigration Activist Jose Antonio Vargas Detained At Texas Airport

By Stacey Leasca, Javier Panzar, and Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times

MCALLEN, Texas — Prominent journalist and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas was detained at McAllen-Miller International Airport in Texas on Tuesday.

Vargas, an undocumented immigrant, tweeted that he was going to go through security carrying a pocket version of the U.S. Constitution and his Philippine passport as his only form of identification. After that, his tweets stopped.

A call to the airport has not been returned and a Border Patrol spokesman reached Tuesday morning said he was unaware of the situation but was seeking more information. Another Border Patrol spokesperson told the Associated Press that Vargas was indeed in custody.

Vargas said Friday in Politico Magazine that he flew to the Texas border town on Thursday, and was then warned that he may not be able to leave due to the interior border control checks in and around the area.

Ryan Eller, the campaign director for Define American, a group Vargas founded, said Vargas was on his way to Los Angeles on Monday to attend a screening of his new documentary, “Documented.”

“It became apparent during our time here, in this border town (that he might not be able to leave) — a situation shared by thousands of undocumented Americans who are ‘stuck’ at the border, which for them is a daily struggle,” Eller said in a statement.

Mario Carillo, a spokesman for United We Dream, an organization that represents young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. unlawfully as children which Vargas also co-founded, said supporters of Vargas are standing outside the McAllen Border Patrol Station, where he is being detained.

In 2011, the former Washington Post reporter revealed in The New York Times Magazine article that he was undocumented. In 2012, he was arrested on a traffic violation in Minnesota, but released. He has since become a highly visible immigration activist.
While many of have voiced support for Vargas, Bryan Johnson, an immigration attorney in New York who represents several minors from Central America in immigration court, seemed skeptical of Vargas’ plight.

Vargas “likely knew he would be arrested by Border Patrol before he made the trip to South Texas,” he said in a message to the Los Angeles Times, saying it appears Vargas was trying to increase pressure on the Obama administration to expand deferred immigration action for everyone, but Johnson said that is unlikely to help with the crisis of the flood of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Johnson predicted Vargas would be released soon.

“He will likely be released in a couple of hours, free to go on his way.”

Photo via WikiCommons

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