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Undocumented Filipino activist released by U.S. border patrol

By Christopher Sherman

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:15 p.m. HST, Jul 15, 2014

McALLEN, Texas >> Prominent immigration activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who has lived and worked in the U.S. illegally for years, was released by U.S. Border Patrol agents on Tuesday after they detained him at a South Texas airport.

Border Patrol spokesman Omar Zamora said Vargas was stopped going through security at the airport in McAllen, only a few miles from the Mexico border. A spokeswoman for Define American, Vargas' advocacy group, confirmed his release Tuesday afternoon.

It's common for the Border Patrol to release people on their own recognizances, with notices to appear in court later. With such notices, people can generally travel throughout the U.S. without being detained again.

Vargas had been visiting the border city of McAllen for several days as part of a vigil to highlight the plight of unaccompanied immigrant children coming into the U.S. illegally who have overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities.

But at McAllen/Miller International Airport, Vargas knew he could have problems. Border Patrol agents stand alongside Transportation Security Administration personnel to check documentation -- even for domestic flights and he was carrying only a passport from the Philippines and a palm-size copy of the U.S. Constitution.

On Tuesday morning, Vargas tweeted: "About to go thru security at McAllen Airport. I don't know what's going to happen."

The security checks at the airport -- and elsewhere in the Rio Grande Valley -- are familiar to people living along the Texas-Mexico border.

Along highways out of the area, drivers are stopped at Border Patrol checkpoints about an hour's drive north of the border. And it's not uncommon for children who entered the country illegally with their parents to grow up in the Rio Grande Valley to stay home when classmates go on field trips along those roadways to San Antonio.

In recent years, some U.S. citizens who object to being asked about their citizenship at the interior checkpoints have taken to refusing to answer agents' questions or produce identification while recording video that is later uploaded to the Internet.

Vargas, a native of the Philippines, was unaware he would have to pass through an immigration check prior to arriving in the city, said Ryan Eller, campaign director for Define American, the advocacy group founded by Vargas.

"We had been to border towns before like San Diego and other places, but we didn't recognize until here the situation," Eller said while standing across the street from the Border Patrol station where Vargas was being held. "We tried to prepare for basically every scenario that we could."

Vargas' last tweet Tuesday morning was a photograph of his Philippines passport and a palm-size copy of the U.S. Constitution.

Eller confirmed that the only identification Vargas carried was that passport. He said Vargas was en route to Los Angeles and that he had consulted with attorneys before going to the airport. Eller said a "travel partner" was at the airport with Vargas, but that they were immediately separated in security.

Vargas' attorney didn't return messages for comment.

Vargas had flown to McAllen last Thursday to take part in the vigil. In an essay he wrote for Politico on Friday, Vargas said he has travelled in the U.S. for years without a problem but didn't realize that immigration checks are done on those driving or flying out of the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Vargas noted he doesn't have any government-issued U.S. identification.

Vargas went public about his immigration status in a 2011 piece for the New York Times Magazine. He was part of the Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre.

He also directed a documentary called "Documented," and founded the activist group "Define American."

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Pocho wrote:
Maybe he's getting ready to run for President in the Philipines, I would think this gives him so recognition
on July 15,2014 | 06:44AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Kick him out. He shouldn't be here.
on July 15,2014 | 06:57AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Good - get rid of him and never allow him back. This is so unfair to all of the people in the Philippines who have been on the waiting list for years. (If you are involved in the legal process then you know how long the wait can be). This guy slips in, lives the good life, then over stays.
on July 15,2014 | 07:08AM
Cricket_Amos wrote:
Undocumented means he could be here legally but has failed to get his documents or has lost them. If he is not here legally, he should be referred to as an illegal immigrant, not undocumented.
on July 15,2014 | 07:39AM
South76 wrote:
Dude get with the times, undocumented immigrants was just a recent phrase used by the liberal media and this inept government we have now to mean ILLEGAL immigrants. Look up in the dictionary what ILLEGAL means and now you KNOW why they changed the term to UNDOCUMENTED. These people came here ILLEGALY, and we MUST deport them as soon as possible. We can't feed the ones we already have we don't need more LAW BREAKERS.
on July 15,2014 | 12:21PM
ninilchikman wrote:
Really, can testify on Capitol Hill with all the security there and they don't go after him? Knowing he is there illegally ? Why is this news for him and everyone else gets detained and deported? Liberals.
on July 15,2014 | 07:48AM
scooters wrote:
Because Obama's administration picks and chooses who stays and who goes..
on July 15,2014 | 09:19AM
South76 wrote:
Yup, and remember inept Obama will keep those who are more likely to vote bleeding hearts. ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS feeding off the social program trough. So much for protecting the middle class.
on July 15,2014 | 12:24PM
Pocho wrote:
Geez. Where's the VETERANS on this. The US citizens that are poor, the vets, the inner city kids could have gotten more financial help if there were no undocumented migrants in the US. Guess what the handouts are the limits the Gov. is handing out the xtras goes somewhere else besides the UH poor.
on July 15,2014 | 02:20PM
false wrote:
Pulitzer prize? what a joke... they gave Barry a Nobel peace one of those.
on July 15,2014 | 08:23AM
scooters wrote:
The Nobel Peace Prize has been down graded to a grade school certificate...
on July 15,2014 | 09:21AM
busterb wrote:
You got one?
on July 15,2014 | 10:06AM
bekwell wrote:
IF you don't have one, you can buy it on ebay.
on July 15,2014 | 02:06PM
ellinaskyrt wrote:
Vargas was brought here when he was 12 years old, not knowing that his family brought him here illegally. It wasn't he tried to get a drivers license at the age of 16 that he discovered his status. Outside of his immigration status, he'd never committed any crimes, and has probably done more good work for the United States of America in terms of his journalistic achievements covering topics like HIV/AIDs and the Virginia Tech shootings (for which he won a Pulitzer), than most Americans. He paid taxes the whole time he was here (albeit using fake identification). In my view, while he is ethnically Filipino, he is just as American in his heart as anyone who is a legal citizen or was born here. He has no desire to "return" to the Philippines, which is as little a home to him as it would be for most American-born Filipinos. It would be foolish for our nation to deport him - he's a great asset, a high-achiever, and a journalistic servant to the nation. To me, his story well captures the dilemma our nation has.
on July 15,2014 | 08:27AM
2localgirl wrote:
" He paid taxes the whole time he was here (albeit using fake identification). In my view, while he is ethnically Filipino, he is just as American in his heart as anyone who is a legal citizen or was born here. He has no desire to "return" to the Philippines, which is as little a home to him as it would be for most American-born Filipinos. It would be foolish for our nation to deport him - he's a great asset, a high-achiever, and a journalistic servant to the nation. To me, his story well captures the dilemma our nation has." It all boils down to the fact, he should not be living on in the USA. There is no dilemma, just a president who thinks he is God almighty and can do as such, whatever he wants. Turns a blind eye and looks for the next party with celebs to hob nob with. Pitiful that we, a once proud country, has been reduced to this level. And you bleeding hearts out there, wanting to do ''good'' and give a ''black'' man a chance , did it work out for ya? Sure didn't from what I've read. Oh, remember,he's also a "white" man, using your qualifications. Once in, you then give him carte blanche to do whatever and again, turn a blind eye. we are toast as a nation. Thanks to you who voted him in. And for those of you, you are worse, you elected someone who came from nothing just because of his color.
on July 15,2014 | 09:14AM
cojef wrote:
Believe there was statement made about not a smidgen of corruption at the IRS by the President. Strange that hard-drives belonging to Lois Lerner who has been cited for contempt of Congress, were deleted as far back as 2 years ago and the hard-drives were re-cycled and no longer available to the Congressional staff examining/investigating the targeting of "conservative groups" filing for exempt status of their organization. Auwe!
on July 15,2014 | 02:31PM
nalogirl wrote:
So we should only keep the illegals that are great assets? That is discrimination. If you are illegally here, you are an illegal alien. There is no foreign country that Americans can go to without a visa, in other countries if you are illegal you are imprisoned or sent back. Why does America have to even have a hearing for these illegal immigrants before they leave? When those that were deported back home, they were greeted with balloons and smiles, they are not refugees escaping death, they want to come to our country to get the freebies or create problems.
on July 15,2014 | 09:18AM
warrenkim wrote:
It's called prosecutorial discretion, a concept as old as our criminal law system. It was under President Bush's Department of Homeland Security who outlined several memorandum to DHS about using prosecutorial discretion. The memos started in 2000 and continued thereon. President Obama only implemented what the memos stated are ground for proprietorial discretion. Prosecutorial discretion was not born out of pity, but prioritizing the limited resources of the government. Our immigration courts are backlogged and overly burdened. Even under the Bush administration, they were crying for help from their work load. The memos by the Bush administration was directed at the lower levels, but it was never closely adhered by the staff because it was still not a clear mandate from the executive branch. President Obama made the Bush's memorandums into an executive order.
on July 15,2014 | 10:12AM
NITRO08 wrote:
You need to read up on visa's and the law for children coming from other country's except Mexico and Canada. There is a lot of country's Americans can go without visa's.
on July 15,2014 | 12:19PM
FluidMotion wrote:
Lets give him a new story to write about. Being deported for breaking the law.
on July 15,2014 | 11:30AM
South76 wrote:
yeah, yeah, ILLEGAL means unlawful; deport his A&& back.
on July 15,2014 | 12:26PM
8087823674 wrote:
If the US has come to place where we kick out pulitizer prize winning journalists then we should give the statue of liberty back to France because we don't deserve it anymore...
on July 15,2014 | 08:38AM
loio wrote:
on July 15,2014 | 09:29AM
etalavera wrote:
If I moved to the Philippines, or to the UK, or Switzerland, Canada, Germany or any number of countries with no visa, no work permit, no intention of obtaining same, but instead get a job there and proclaim my undocumented status like I deserved some sort of medal, would the Philippine / UK / Swiss, et al. government: (a) embrace me as a victim or some sort of humanitarian?; or (b) send me a notice of deportation and frogmarch me out on the next plane or bus if I did not comply? The answer is (b). The U.S. is the only country where (a) is a distinct possibility.
on July 15,2014 | 12:46PM
bekwell wrote:
Try being an illegal in the Philippines. It will cost you your entire savings account, and then you'll be deported.
on July 15,2014 | 02:11PM
bekwell wrote:
Win an award and you can break any law you choose??????
on July 15,2014 | 02:09PM
2localgirl wrote:
Illegal; undocumented, not allowed to reside in the USA. Simple, black and white, not a gray area. Why allow it to become gray. Doesn't matter, you are not supposed to be in our country. Go back to where you are allowed to live, the Philippines.
on July 15,2014 | 09:08AM
nalogirl wrote:
Agree with you 2localgirl.
on July 15,2014 | 09:19AM
loio wrote:
on July 15,2014 | 09:29AM
AkiKoa wrote:
What about those who claim they are not American.
on July 15,2014 | 09:48AM
Mei mei wrote:
you are all missing the point... this so called "illegal" was brought into the country illegally by his parents, that is what the protest was about in Texas... these children who were brought in without their own accord to the US are now grown adults, and yet they face deportation due to this immigration law that was put into place. After years of being a law abiding citizen and yes even a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, are faced with deportation... just imagine yourself in that shoe... forced to go back to a country you don't even know.
on July 15,2014 | 12:23PM
loio wrote:
was he paying income taxes during all these years when he was living and working in the U.S.?
on July 15,2014 | 09:28AM
Loki wrote:
I bet that's a bunch of bs. How could he pay taxes when he had no SSN?
on July 15,2014 | 11:28AM
false wrote:
When one presses his luck too often, "snake eyes" usually comes up.
on July 15,2014 | 11:04AM
lowtone123 wrote:
Didn't dawn on him that they would ask for documents in an airport next to the border? Driving there wasn't an option? Not. Very. Smart.
on July 15,2014 | 11:28AM
lee1957 wrote:
on July 15,2014 | 11:47AM
South76 wrote:
Send his A&& back to the Philippines. ILLEGAL means unlawful act. His kind and those who support these ILLEGAL immigrants are a bunch of horse droppings.
on July 15,2014 | 12:17PM
Mei mei wrote:
you should stop eating those droppings... because you speak a lot of !
on July 15,2014 | 12:28PM
false wrote:
on July 15,2014 | 01:29PM
WestSideTory wrote:
This clown has been illegal for for the past 21 years and has done nothing to become legal...its time he go back to the Philippines.
on July 15,2014 | 02:55PM
NITRO08 wrote:
There is no way to become legal he tried. I saw him on TV a couple of weeks ago.
on July 15,2014 | 03:48PM
false wrote:
Marry an American citizen to get legal status. Isn't that what our renowned Thai chef and restaurant owner did to beat the system?
on July 15,2014 | 04:02PM
SteveToo wrote:
Send this creep back. And if he comes back again shoot him.
on July 15,2014 | 09:47PM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
He should do the right thing and leave the country since he has no legal standing here....the Feds shouldn't have released him....
on July 15,2014 | 09:47PM
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