One of the most high-profile undocumented immigrants in American history, Jose Antonio Vargas, was detained by Border Patrol agents Tuesday. Vargas, a celebrated filmmaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, had spent several days prior to the detainment in McAllen, Texas, covering the recent surge of undocumented Central American children into the Southwest. He was attempting to board a flight to Houston at McAllen-Miller International Airport when Border Patrol pulled him aside after noticing his passport was from the Philippines. He was held in custody for the majority of the day before being released with instructions to appear at an immigration hearing in the near future.
Vargas, an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines, has made a career out of writing about and advocating for immigrants in America. He has been living in the U.S. without citizenship since 1993, though this detainment represents the first time he has ever been held by immigration authorities.
The move to detain Vargas puts federal immigration officials in a bit of an awkward position. Vargas has been very thorough in outing himself as an undocumented individual over the last few years, first doing so in a New York Times article and then later in an essay in Time magazine. His detainment and eventual release, if nothing else, offers reform advocates a compelling argument regarding the validity of deportation rationale as a whole.
“I was released today because I am a low priority and not considered a threat,” Vargas told the New York Times. “I would argue that the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country are not a threat either.”
Border Patrol officials indicated that Vargas was released once he failed to turn up a criminal record or anything that would indicate he is a threat to others. Vargas, whose upcoming documentary is appropriately titled, “Undocumented,” has traveled to 43 states as a journalist in the last three years. He has been in America since he was 12 years old. When Obama offered Deferred Action for Child Arrivals in 2012, Vargas was too old for the cutoff age by a matter of months.