Photo: Antonio Vargas
The U.S. Border Patrol in McAllen, Texas - after detaining him earlier on Tuesday - released the most prominent undocumented immigrant in the country, journalist and activist Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter said in a statement.
“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,” Vargas said in a statement.
“Our daily lives are filled with fear in simple acts such as getting on an airplane to go home to our family. With Congress failing to act on immigration reform, and President (Barack) Obama weighing his options on executive action, the critical question remains: how do we define American?” he added.
The Philippine-born Vargas gained fame in 2011 with an essay in the New York Times Magazine, in which he revealed that he came to the United States when he was 12 years old with his grandfather and has lived in the country undocumented from that day to this.
Since then he has become an advocate for the millions of undocumented people who, like him, are Americans in every way, yet face the constant danger of being deported to their country of origin, which they may not know at all.
Vargas had gone to the border city of McAllen, Texas, to meet with groups offering their support to the unaccompanied Central American children pouring into the country.
He was documenting the work of organizations that help families with children who come to the border.
These people are detained and registered, but soon afterwards are set free and are then completely destitute due to the impossibility of putting them up at centers overcrowded by the massive waves of new arrivals.
The McAllen region along the Rio Grande is staked out by the Border Patrol and local and state police attempting to control the flow of arriving immigrants, including 57,000 unaccompanied minors over the past nine months, a situation which has forced emergency measures to be put in place.
Vargas is one of the most significant figures in the immigration debate and probably the most famous undocumented immigrant in the United States.
Photos posted on the Internet show Vargas handcuffed by the Border Patrol as he was about to board a plane to Los Angeles.
No explanation has yet been given for his detention, though in all probability it was due to his being in the United States without papers.
Because of the situation on the border, McAllen-Miller International Airport is one of the few in the country where Border Patrol agents are posted at TSA security checkpoints.