Update (6:00 P.M.): Vargas has been released from custody by Border Patrol. The development was confirmed by Define American, an immigrant rights group that was working with Vargas at the time he was detained. Though no further information was available at the time, Define American did post a statement from Vargas to its Facebook page. That statement is available below.
“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.
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.
With Congress failing to act on immigration reform, and President Obama weighing his options on executive action, the critical question remains: how do we define American?”
Before Vargas was released, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s office released a statement, in which the Mayor said he “[stands] in solidarity” with the detained journalist and activist:
“[Jose is] an exemplary man whose tireless work has helped raise awareness around the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants living on American soil. Jose Antonio’s detainment today at a Texas airport, close to where he was working to document the plight of refugees, shows how our immigrant enforcement agencies are failing to use their discretion and detaining long-time immigrants who do not pose a threat to our security. . . He exemplifies what America is about. I call for his quick release and hope that he can stay in the country that has been his home and to which he has contributed so much.”
The original article continues below.
Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and immigration activist, has been detained at an airport in McAllen, Texas. United We Dream, an immigrant rights group, confirmed Vargas’s detention in a statement and live-streamed video announcement.
As an undocumented immigrant himself, Vargas usually travels within the United States by using his Philippines passport. But, as he wrote in Politico magazine on Friday, he didn’t anticipate the added immigration stopgaps in that area of the border. In McAllen, Customs and Border Protection officers appear alongside the T.S.A. A video seemingly of Vargas being questioned by airport security and C.B.P. was posted online Tuesday:
A source who was with Vargas provided Huffington Post Politics editor Ryan Grim with a photo of Vargas being handcuffed in McAllen.
Vargas had gone to the border town to report on the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing into the United States, a crisis that, as Vargas himself wrote, had resulted in “political ping-pong centered on border security and increased enforcement.” Before attempting to leave the area and ending up in custody, Vargas had given a number of interviews and produced videos based on what he observed. One such video, from a church working to aid undocumented immigrants who have just crossed the border, is available below.
“We stand in solidarity with Jose Antonio and demand for his immediate release, but we must remember that there are thousands of people along the border that live with this same fear every day,” United We Dream managing director Cristina Jimenez said in a statement. “Once again, the Border Patrol has proven to be a rogue agency after arresting Jose Antonio, a low-priority case for detention and deportation.”
Before attempting to pass through security, Vargas tweeted that he was unsure what would happen, and that he was carrying his “Philippine passport and my pocketbook U.S. constitution.”