The crisis that has embroiled the southern border of the United States in chaos is becoming a national crisis. CNN's Don Lemon reported on July 16, filling in for Brooke Baldwin on Newsroom, that Jose Vargas had become “a different face” for immigration, replacing those of the “tens of thousands of illegal immigrant” children who had “just arrived at the Texas border from Central America.” Vargas, himself a child immigrant illegally brought to America from the Philippines at the age of 12 by his parents, had been profiled in the CNN feature, “Documented.” ABC affiliate, WFAA's anchor Marcus Moore reported on Thursday, July 17 that speakers in Austin, Texas held a news conference at the state capitol asking Texas governor, Rick Perry and state attorney general, Greg Abbott to “take additional, specific measures to protect the people of Texas.” Radical conservative group, Grassroots America Conservatives, organized the session with their primary purpose to tell media representatives about the “increased impact” of the unaccompanied immigrant children on the state. The group has pointed out that the illegal immigration problem has gone on for more than 14 years, while Republicans in prominent positions who should have curtailed the illegal entry said one thing while doing nothing. However, a U.S. border patrol official told national news media on Thursday “a region in South Texas overwhelmed by immigrant children illegally crossing into the U.S. has detained fewer minors in the last 10 days.”
On Tuesday, July 15, self-admitted undocumented, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas was detained at the Texas southern border adjoining the U.S. and Mexico at the McAllen airport when he could not produce documents to border security. In an article written for The New York Times by Julia Preston and Laura Tillman on July 15, a photo showed Vargas being detained in the Rio Grande Valley-area airport as he prepared to board a plane for his flight to Houston, continuing on to Los Angeles from there. According to the article, an official for the Department of Homeland Security told The Times reporters Vargas had no prior immigration or criminal record so was released later on Tuesday.
Almost immediately after Vargas was detained, activist and Vargas friend, Tania Chavez, took to the airwaves in support of Vargas and in condemnation of the border patrol doing their job. Undocumented herself, she complained that she and many others like her were not permitted to travel “beyond the 100-mile radius because we're tired. We are tired of being caged within this border.” She told CNN's Don Lemon,
“When I first came to the United States, I was 14 years old. I came to middle school, graduated high school in three years. I have accomplished two master's degrees. Until this day, I can[not] exercise it (ph).”
She claimed that Vargas had not known he could be nor expected to be detained. She insisted, angrily, that Vargas “knew he wanted to show support for these kids and he wanted to show support for these kids. He found himself trapped. We showed him love and this is what we get now.”
Lemon inquired why Chavez did not take her education that she admitted had been free of cost to herself back to Mexico and help improve the plight of her people there. Chavez said her parents now lived in Mexico, but said she would not go back to Mexico because these people were now her family and America her home. She asked him why she should take the education she had received as a gift from America to another country.
The night before his detainment, Vargas spoke on-camera with CNN's Erin Burnett who asked him,
“Are you daring, in a sense Jose Antonio, people to arrest you... and deport you? I would say they're not going to. You're a Pulitzer Prize-winner. You've accomplished a lot of things. They're not going to waste their time on you. But, is that your goal down there?"
“But Erin, why the double standard? When I outed myself three years ago, my goal was to say I'm one of the eleven million people. I'm not asking for special treatment.”
The very next day, Vargas and his supporters, led by Chavez, were doing just that — asking President Obama for special treatment for Vargas when they issued pleas to the president and the Secretary of Homeland Security for Vargas' release. Customs and Homeland Security have not offered a response, although CNN approached them for a statement on the detention of Vargas.
Texas Republican governor, Rick Perry made a plea to President Barack Obama during his visit to Texas on July 9 and 10 for scheduled fund raisers in Dallas and Austin. The president agreed to ask the Republican-led Congress to approve $3.7 billion for the crisis at the border in response to Perry's plea, although foregoing the governor's offer to visit the border for a first-hand look at the site in the Rio Grande Valley, where the unaccompanied children were being temporarily housed.
Texas senators Henry Cuellar (D) and John Cornyn (R) have teamed up to present a bill designed to speed up the process for hearing the cases and returning unaccompanied children to their home countries faster, relieving the tension at the Texas border. Dallas Morning News reported on the bill devised by the two Texas lawmakers. Meanwhile, in Dallas and Tarrant counties, a number of religious-based charities and service organizations are preparing shelter and supplies for up to 2,000 of those children while they await their hearings. The Dallas Independent School District and Dallas County judge, Clay Jenkins are in the process of renovating unused DISD schools to house some of the children. At present, the Grand Prairie Independent School District and City Council are debating and inviting community discussions on whether to offer the use of Lamar Elementary School, a dormant structure in GPISD.
Other states in the country are opposed to offering temporary shelter to the children who have entered the country illegally, at all, reported CNN correspondent Ana Cabrera. Some see the temporary housing of these children as threats to public safety and health. Others have concerns about the cost to their states.
A new ABC News/Washington Post survey shows only 33 percent of Americans polled approve of how the president has handled the immigration crisis; only 23 percent approve of the response by Republicans in Congress. However, 53 percent Americans polled are in favor of emergency spending of the $3.7 billion the president has asked Congress to approve.