Though Jose Antonio Vargas came out about not being a citizen three years ago, and has traveled to more than 40 states since then, he found himself with no way out when he tried leaving Texas.
Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who became an immigration icon when he publicly admitted he was an undocumented immigrant living in the United States in a 2011 New York Times Magazine article, was detained by Border Patrol at McAllen Airport in Texas early this morning. "About to go thru security at McAllen Airport. I don’t know what’s going to happen," he said in a tweet. The Texas airport and surrounding areas are under tight security due to its close proximity to the border, and it seems Vargas underestimated how strict it is. A few minutes later, Vargas tweeted a picture of the only identification he carried:
His Twitter account, with more than 15,000 tweets, has been silent since then, more than eight hours as of this writing. Huffington Post reporter Ryan Grim tweeted this photo of Vargas in handcuffs:
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.
Thirty-three-year-old Vargas was brought to America illegally from the Philippines by his father when he was 12. He says he had no idea he was undocumented until he applied for a driver's license at 16, and was rejected because his papers were fake. Since then, he rose to fame as a journalist, winning the Pulitzer Prize for covering the Virginia Tech shootings in 2008 for The Washington Post. Vargas also founded "Define American," a non-profit that focuses on the discussion of immigration and what constitutes as being American; he recently released the film Documented, about his life and the U.S. immigration debate, which he wrote and directed.
It's tragically poetic, in a sense, that Vargas was detained in Texas. He was there to document the influx of South American children who have shown up at the border in recent weeks, and he published this article, "Trapped on the Border," for Politico.
The Washington Post reporter Ernesto Londoño said that Vargas texted him last week saying, "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."
Vargas tweeted this picture of the sun setting over the Rio Grande yesterday, knowing it may have been the last sunset he'd see in America.
Complex reached out to Define American for word about whether Vargas will be deported, but haven't yet received comment.
UPDATE: Vargas was released by Border Patrol.