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 Fillipino 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, whch 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.”
A spokesperson from Define American has confirmed that Jose Antonio Vargas has been released by McAllen, TX Border Patrol. Vargas has issued a statement about his detainment.