Updated — 5:55 p.m. ET
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who is also an undocumented Filipino immigrant and an immigration reform activist, was detained Tuesday in Texas and held at a Border Patrol station. He has since been released.
“As an unaccompanied child migrant myself, I 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,” Vargas said in a statement after his release.
“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.”
After arriving in McAllen, Vargas quickly realized that it would be nearly impossible for him to leave the area unquestioned.
“In the last 24 hours I realize that, for an undocumented immigrant like me, getting out of a border town in Texas—by plane or by land—won’t be easy,” he wrote in Politico. “It might, in fact, be impossible.”
Before his release, Cristina Jimenez, the managing director for the immigrant youth-led network United We Dream, issued a statement Tuesday.
“We stand in solidarity with Jose Antonio and demand for his immediate release, but we must remember that there are thousands of people along the border that live with this same fear every day,” she said.
“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.”
“As an unaccompanied child migrant myself, I 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.
At the press conference after Vargas was detained, undocumented youth sought to draw parallels between his situation and their reality at the border.
“For 17 years I have lived and my community has lived what Jose Antonio is living right now,” said DREAMer and deferred action recipient Luis Maldonado.
He said he had to make choices like passing up on his dream university because he would have to pass a border checkpoint to get to it.
“I have undocumented family in San Antonio, Texas. For 17 years I have been unable to visit my family that lives in the United States.”
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called for Vargas release.
“Jose Antonio Vargas is not only a taxpayer, small business owner and an upstanding American— he is a hero whose activism through Define American and his film ‘Documented’ has shed light on the plight of undocumented Americans in our country like never before,” she said in a statement.
“I urge federal officials in Texas to use prosecutorial discretion and release Jose who has shown time and again that he is truly an American. I stand with Jose.”