Undocumented Reporter Jose Antonio Vargas Detained at the Border

Written by Esther Yu-Hsi Lee

Jose Antonio Vargas, perhaps the most prominent undocumented immigrant to come out about his legal status, was detained trying to leave a Texas border town Tuesday morning. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials at the McAllen, Texas airport require travelers to carry visas as well government-issued identification cards. Vargas only had a Filipino passport and a copy of the Constitution. TSA officials turned Vargas over to the Border Patrol where he remains detained.

Earlier this week, Vargas traveled to McAllen with United We Dream to document the unaccompanied children crisis, but only found out once he got there that he would have to encounter Border Patrol checkpoints. Generally, officials at these checkpoints ask for documentation and follow-up questions, which some organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has derided for violating the Fourth Amendment. Although the initial intent for these checkpoints was designated for the specific purpose of border security, checkpoints can also extend at least 100 miles inland.

Vargas was a year too old to qualify for the 2012 presidential initiative known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which means that he cannot apply for U.S. government-issued identification in his home state of New York. Still, according to federal administration memos on prosecutorial discretion, Vargas should be considered a low-priority case and thus should not be detained.

Although media attention and Vargas’ professional connections may likely help him out in this situation, other undocumented immigrants living in McAllen are not as lucky. “Here in the Rio Grande Valley, we have four borders,” a United We Dream member lamented, moments after Vargas was detained. “We have the border with Mexico, we have the city border, and we have two border checkpoints. Undocumented people are stuck. You cannot take a bus outside of these four borders. Jose Antonio has just proved this.”

Vargas told Dallas News over the weekend, “the reality is there are thousands in this region whose lives are confined to a 45-mile radius because of border agents and checkpoints.”

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Catman P.
Catman P.about a year ago


Nikolas K.
Nikolas K.about a year ago

There are many famous people allowed to live in America from Nazi scientist to John lennon, crocodile dundee actor and so on. so your laws have a double standard like every country has.

Maria Teresa Schollhorn
Maria Teresa Schollhornabout a year ago

Thank you.

Magdalena J.
Magdalena C.about a year ago

Thank you for sharing!

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B.about a year ago


Joe V.
Joe V.about a year ago

Deport this illegal immigrant. No special privileges for him... End of story... ILLEGAL is ILLEGAL............

ERIKA SOMLAIabout a year ago


heather g.
heather g.about a year ago

Wow - almost sounds like Gaza

Maureen Leibich
Maureen Leibichabout a year ago

JL A--What do you mean by constitutional violations? And what detention without cause are you talking about? Vargas, Pulitzer Prize winner or not, is an illegal alien. He needs to suffer the same consequences that others like him do. If the others can't leave that area, he shouldn't be able to do so. This detention is not without cause. Why should he be treated differently than any other illegal alien, just because he's famous? The answer is he shouldn't be.

Ernest Roth
Ernest R.about a year ago

@ Terri P."sorry but you can't just deport an underage child without some adult being there to meet it. That is unworthy of us" Sorry, but you can't dump your underage child on the street or send it unescorted in the tender loving care of drug cartels to be raped while on the way to an illegal border crossing. That is unworthy even of human garbage.