(McALLEN, Texas) -- America’s most famous undocumented immigrant, former Washington Post reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, has been released after being taken into custody Tuesday by the Border Patrol in McAllen, Texas.
Vargas, who made a movie about his limbo status in the United States and came out publicly as an undocumented immigrant, has previously said he knew he was subject to deportation. But Tuesday, his fears almost came true.
Vargas came to the U.S. from the Philippines as a boy, sent to live with his grandmother. He said he did not know he was here illegally until he applied for a driver’s license and had no documents to prove citizenship.
After his release he issued a statement, in which he says he 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,” he said. “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?”
According to a statement provided to ABC by the Department of Homeland Security Vargas was apprehended after “he stated that he was in the country illegally.”
He was then taken to the McAllen Border Patrol Station “where he was processed and provided with a Notice to Appear before an immigration judge. He was released on his own recognizance after consultation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”
DHS informs ABC News that a foreign passport, like that presented by Vargas, is an acceptable form of ID for TSA to verify against a boarding document.
Vargas lived under the radar, working as a respected journalist since 2004.
He did not qualify for the Dream Act, or deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), which allows children brought to the U.S. by undocumented parents to remain here, because he was more than 30 years old, the cutoff age, at the time President Obama signed it into law in 2012.
Vargas said he traveled the country, knowing he was a low priority for the Border Patrol because he is not a criminal or a danger to the United States. But he also knew he could be arrested at any time.
The journalism went to the Mexican border recently to advocate for the masses of undocumented immigrant children crossing over — a situation that officials have called a humanitarian crisis. He said he was going through a TSA checkpoint to leave McAllen when he was detained.
Vargas tweeted the following just before he went through security:
Pope Francis sent a message to the “Mexico/Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development,” calling on the “the international community to pay attention to this challenge,” referring to the humanitarian crisis at the border.
“The tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence,” the pontiff said. “This is a category of migrants … who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain”.
He added that the numbers which “are increasing day by day” demand humanitarian assistance and “demands the attention of the entire international community so that new forms of legal and secure migration may be adopted.”
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