Pulitzer Prize-winning, undocumented journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas, came to the Rio Grande Valley last week to visit and report on the children refugees being sheltered in McAllen. Vargas was able to interview and film the young refugees, wanting to share their story with the rest of the country.
“I flew into the valley Thursday morning to visit a shelter for unaccompanied Central American refugees and participate in a vigil in their honor. Outraged at the media coverage of this humanitarian crisis (these children are not “illegal,” as news organizations like CBS News and the New York Times call them), and frustrated by the political ping-pong centered on border security and increased enforcement, I also came here to share my own story of coming to the United States as an unaccompanied minor from the Philippines. I wanted to help change the narrative of the conversation and, with a camera crew, share stories from the shelter and its volunteers,” Vargas wrote on Politico.
Yet, for all residents, traveling outside the Valley requires passing inspection by Border Patrol at the Falfurrias checkpoint or at the airport. Procedures Vargas was not aware of.
Update 6:43pm: Vargas was released. His comments below.
More below the jump.“When my friend Mony Ruiz-Velasco, an immigration lawyer who used to work in the area, saw on my Facebook page that I was in McAllen, she texted me: “I am so glad you are visiting the kids near the border. But how will you get through the checkpoint on your way back?” A curious question, I thought, and one I dismissed. I've visited the border before, in California. What checkpoint? What was she talking about?” wrote Vargas.
Visiting McAllen is like visiting any other city in the country. However, traveling beyond all border towns requires a government-issued ID or passport. Vargas, who is in the Rio Grande Valley, would need to present a proper government ID or passport at the McAllen airport. If traveling by vehicle, he would need to show proper documentation at the Falfurrias checkpoint, situated an hour north from the border.
These “checkpoints” are essentially borders within our own country, where everyone is asked to prove they are citizens or legal residents.
Vargas, who was born in the Philippines, travels only using a passport issued by his native country. Yet, people at Customs and Border Protection (CPB) in the McAllen airport are persistent about documentation, and so are border patrol agents in Falfurrias. I know this as someone who frequently travels to and from the Valley, my hometown. I always make sure to carry my U.S. passport, which proves I am a citizen, and even then I often get asked all kinds of questions by CBP.
While attempting to go through CPB at the McAllen airport, Vargas was arrested and is now being detained by Border Patrol in McAllen.
Cristina Jimenez, Managing Director of United We Dream issued this statement following his arrest:
“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.”
“Once again, the Border Patrol has proven to be a rogue agency after arresting Jose Antonio, a low-priority case for detention and deportation.”
“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.”
“United We Dream will continue to demand a vast expansion of DACA, one that eliminates age-caps that have made Jose Antonio and many other Dreamers ineligible, and one that includes the parents of Dreamers and U.S. citizens.”
Watch Vargas talk about experience visiting the border below:
Vargas had this to say about being released by CPB:
— Jose Antonio Vargas (@joseiswriting) July 16, 2014