Sunday 15 December 2019

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas (33) detained at US airport

Journalist and director of film
Journalist and director of film "Documented", Jose Antonio Vargas. Reuters/Kevork Djansezian/Files

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigrant and prominent immigration activist, was detained at an airport in McAllen, Texas, today as he was passing through a security checkpoint, rights groups said.

Airport officials in the border city could not confirm that Vargas had been detained but said an unidentified individual was taken into custody at a security checkpoint.

U.S. Border Patrol did not reply to requests seeking comment.

Vargas, 33, posted a picture of himself holding documents on a Facebook page for Define American, an immigration activist group he cofounded, as he was about to go through airport security.

"The only IDs I have to show security: my Philippine passport and my pocketbook U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, which I keep with me at all times. I don't know what's going to happen," wrote Vargas.

Another photo posted a few minutes later, showed a man identified as Vargas being placed in handcuffs by uniformed personnel.

Vargas was planning to go to Central America to report on the plight of children fleeing countries in the region due to heightened levels of violence, said United We Dream, an immigration activist group for which Vargas was working.

"Once again, the Border Patrol has proven to be a rogue agency after arresting Jose Antonio, a low-priority case for detention and deportation," it said in a statement.

In June 2011, Vargas said he was an undocumented immigrant in an essay in the New York Times Magazine.

In 1993 at the age of 12, he said goodbye to his mother and boarded a plane in the Philippines to join his grandparents in California. It would be four more years before he would learn that he was in the United States illegally.

He won a Pulitzer in 2008 as part of a team that covered the Virginia Tech shootings for The Washington Post.

In an interview with Reuters in June to coincide with his debut film called "Documented," Vargas said he has lived with the fear that he could face deportation.

"I've always been paranoid. I always felt like I had the word 'illegal' tattooed on my forehead," he said.

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