Three years after publicly "coming out" as an illegal immigrant, writing about it and even filming a documentary for CNN, journalist-turned-activist Jose Antonio Vargas was finally nabbed Tuesday by Border Patrol agents while passing through airport security in McAllen, Texas.
Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has been employed at the Huffington Post and the Washington Post, revealed he was in the country illegally in a 2011 article for New York Times Magazine. Vargas, who was born in the Philippines, was brought into the United States at age 12. In 2012, he penned a cover story for Time magazine titled "Not Legal Not Leaving."
To the contrary, Vargas has become an activist for illegal immigrants in the U.S., advocating for the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform through Define American, the nonprofit he founded.
On Tuesday, Vargas was detained for questioning while passing through airport security at McAllen/Miller International Airport. Vargas was bound for Los Angeles to attend a screening of his group's new documentary, "Documented."
Here's a photo of @joseiswriting in handcuffs, because the Border Patrol has nothing more pressing to do apparently pic.twitter.com/dN8KewqeZr— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) July 15, 2014
Prior to arriving at the airport, Vargas sent out two tweets that foreshadowed his detainment.
About to go thru security at McAllen Airport. I don’t know what’s going to happen. For updates follow @DefineAmerican & @MAC_UTPA— Jose Antonio Vargas (@joseiswriting) July 15, 2014
Given the prescience of these tweets and the rapid PR response of his organization, it is possible the detainment was planned as a publicity stunt for Vargas' film. His Time magazine cover story from 2011 states he has "crisscrossed the country" before, "participating in more than 60 events in nearly 20 states" without major incident.
If the detainment is a stunt, it has had the desired effect. Many have called for Vargas's release.
.@joseiswriting, a Pulitzer-winning journalist & outstanding member of our society, does NOT belong in a jail cell. #LATISM #IStandWithJose— Sen. Robert Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) July 15, 2014
A depressingly large number of people want Jose Antonio Vargas deported http://t.co/3mVpC3SKEU— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) July 15, 2014
Former Sandinista fundraiser Bill de Blasio, who is now mayor of New York City, says he stands "in solidarity" with Vargas.
Others support the detainment, saying Vargas' popularity and success should not put him above the law.
Vargas is accomplished & prolific. That does not make him above the law, but some on the left believe it should. http://t.co/CjQERIKC9p— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) July 15, 2014
If I have this right, those who screamed Obamacare is the law of the land are saying Jose Vargas should be released despite law of the land.— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) July 15, 2014
So he walks through a border checkpoint while making a political point and he has no papers. What were they going to do exactly?— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) July 15, 2014
In a statement released shortly after the detainment, Define American spokesman Ryan Eller called on President Obama and Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson "to exercise prosecutorial discretion and immediately release Jose Antonio Vargas."
The White House has so far declined to comment on the matter "because it is a law enforcement issue involving a specific case."