Undocumented Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas Is Taken Into Custody Near US Border

Vargas’ stature as a well-respected journalist and immigration-reform activist draws more attention to the crisis at the border.  

Jose Antonio Vargas is arrested by immigration authorities on July 15, 2014, in McAllen, Texas.
Jose Antonio Vargas is arrested by immigration authorities on July 15, 2014, in McAllen, Texas. Wikimedia Commons

For Three Years, Authorities Have Declined to Prosecute

Jose Antonio Vargas, the undocumented journalist-turned-activist, has been taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol, a border patrol spokesman confirmed on Tuesday.

“All I can say is that we have him in custody,” Omar Zamora said from the border patrol offices in Edinburg, Texas. Vargas had visited the nearby border town of McAllen, Texas.

The immigrant youth-led organization United We Dream said in a statement on its website, “Jose Antonio Vargas of Define American, has been detained by Border Patrol in McAllen after attempting to board a plane to Los Angeles.” It also posted a petition supporting Vargas and added, “Jose’s arrest highlights a larger problem: Most undocumented immigrants from the border can’t travel freely within their own country because of risk of deportation.”

The Monitor, the daily newspaper in McAllen, reported, “Vargas arrived to the McAllen/Miller International Airport shortly before 8:30 a.m to catch a flight to Los Angeles.

“When he got to the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, however, he was asked a few questions before being placed in handcuffs and escorted out to a Border Patrol vehicle.” It added, “After his arrest, Vargas was taken to the McAllen Border Patrol station and [the Minority Affairs Council] is holding a peaceful protest across the street in solidarity with the journalist.”

The group streamed its rally in support of Vargas shortly after 11 a.m. Eastern time. Members chanted, “It is our duty to win,” “We have nothing to lose but our chains” and “What side are you on, my people, what side are you on?”

The group also posted a photo of Vargas in custody, apparently being handcuffed.

Authorities have declined to prosecute Vargas since he disclosed his undocumented status in June 2011 in a New York Times Magazine article, although he was arrested in Minnesota the following year for driving without a valid license.

He wrote for Politico on Friday, “Of course, I can only travel within the United States and, for identification, when I fly I use a valid passport that was issued by my native country, the Philippines. But each flight is a gamble. My passport lacks a visa. If TSA agents discover this, they can contact CBP, which, in turn, can detain me.