Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Juan Antonio Vargas, who, last year, revealed that he was an undocumented alien who had been living in the US since the age of 12, was taken into Border Patrol custody near McAllen, Texas this morning. According to a report in the New York Times :
Mr. Vargas, a Pulitzer-winning journalist, came last week to McAllen, a city just a few miles north of the border with Mexico, for a news conference and vigil organized by United We Dream, an undocumented youth organization, outside a shelter downtown for recently released Central American migrants. On his Twitter feed, Mr. Vargas said he did not realize until he was here that he would have to cross through a Customs and Border Protection checkpoint to leave the Rio Grande Valley. Mr. Vargas travels on a valid Filipino passport, but it has no current United States visa in it.
A blurry photo shows Mr. Vargas in handcuffs:
Since revealing his undocumented status, Mr. Vargas has become an outspoken advocate for the rights of undocumented immigrants, particularly the Dreamers, like himself, who were brought here as children by their parents.
Because of McAllen's proximity to the border, the airport there has Border Patrol checkpoints. Unlike with TSA checkpoints, Border Patrol checkpoints check the immigration status of any foreign national. This is apparently why Mr. Vargas was detained.
Mr. Vargas arrived last Thursday in McAllen to visit with the Central American children seeking refugee status and to participate in a vigil for them. He realized his plight shortly thereafter -- once he would attempt to leave, he would be arrested. He published this piece in Politico on Friday:
When my friend Mony Ruiz-Velasco, an immigration lawyer who used to work in the area, saw on my Facebook page that I was in McAllen, she texted me: “I am so glad you are visiting the kids near the border. But how will you get through the checkpoint on your way back?” A curious question, I thought, and one I dismissed. I’ve visited the border before, in California. What checkpoint? What was she talking about?This morning, while attempting to board a plane to Los Angeles, the Border Patrol took him into custody.
Then Tania Chavez, an undocumented youth leader from the Minority Affairs Council, one of the organizers of the vigil, asked me the same question: “How will you get out of here?” Tania grew up in this border town. As the day wore on, as the reality of my predicament sunk in, Tania spelled it out for me: You might not get through airport security, where Customs and Border Protection (CPB) also checks for IDs, and you will definitely not get through the immigration checkpoints set up within 45 miles of this border town. At these checkpoints, you will be asked for documentation. (“Even if you tell them you’re a U.S. citizen, they will ask you follow-up questions if they don’t believe you,” Tania told me.)
Neither Tania nor I qualify for deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), a directive from the Obama administration that Republican leaders like Texas Gov. Rick Perry have inaccurately and irresponsibly blamed for the surge of unaccompanied youth crossing the border. President Obama announced DACA on June 15, 2012. Young children from Central America have been crossing for years, as Perry well knows. In fact, Perry’s letter to President Obama, supposedly warning him of the deluge, was dated May 4, 2012.
Further developments as they break.
“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. But what I saw was the generosity of the American people, documented and undocumented, in the Rio Grande Valley,” Vargas said in a statement after his release.
“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. Our daily lives are filled with fear in simple acts such as getting on an airplane to go home to our family.”