Jose Antonio Vargas, Journalist and Prominent Undocumented Immigrant, Detained at U.S. Border

Jose Antonio Vargas
Journalist and director of film "Documented", Jose Antonio Vargas, poses for a photograph in Los Angeles, Californa June 18, 2014. Kevork Djansezian/Reuters

Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-prizewinning  journalist and undocumented immigrant, was detained by the U.S. Border Patrol in McAllen, Texas, on Tuesday after trying to board a plane to Los Angeles, according to a statement from activist organization United We Dream. Vargas recently made a documentary film about his experience of immigrating to the U.S. from the Philippines as a child.


Vargas traveled to the border with Mexico last week to report on the thousands of unaccompanied undocumented children who had fled Central America and were being held in border towns. At the border town of McAllen, Vargas realized he would need to pass through a Border Patrol checkpoint in order to leave.

“I’m going to fly out of here, I haven’t decided exactly when, but it’s going to be a test since the border patrol is at the airport," he told the Huffington Post on Saturday. He intended to fly out of the local airport using his Philippines-issued passport.

According to the Washington Post, Vargas wrote in a text message to Post reporter Ernesto Londoño over the weekend that he feels "stupid" for thinking he would be able to easily exit Texas.

“I feel stupid. I’ve been traveling around the country, visiting 43 states in like 3 years, and I’ve been flying using my Philippine passport. But I’ve never been to the Texas border area. I just figured I could use the passport. But apparently I can’t because border patrol agents check foreign passports,” he wrote.

Vargas has been in the U.S. since 1993, when he was twelve.

“Once again, the Border Patrol has proven to be a rogue agency after arresting Jose Antonio, a low-priority case for detention and deportation,” Cristina Jimenez, Managing Director of United We Dream, said in a statement. “Our undocumented community along the border is trapped within its own country, unable to leave and surrounded by checkpoints. It’s immoral that people aren’t free to move around the country they know as home because of a system that seeks to criminalize them.”