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NYC politicians call for release of undocumented journalist Jose Antonio Vargas

Immigration activist and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas was arrested on Tuesday at the U.S.-Mexico Border while trying to board a plane from McAllen, Texas.
Immigration activist and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas was arrested on Tuesday at the U.S.-Mexico Border while trying to board a plane from McAllen, Texas.
Courtesy of Jose Antonio Vargas (Twitter)

New York City politicians condemned the detainment of immigration activist and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas on Tuesday while he attempted to board a plane in Texas.

In a statement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he stands in solidarity with Vargas, calling for his "quick release."

"Jose Antonio’s detainment today at a Texas airport, close to where he was working to document the plight of refugees, shows how our immigrant enforcement agencies are failing to use their discretion and detaining long-time immigrants who do not pose a threat to our security," de Blasio said.

He added, "Jose Antonio has spent most of his life in the United States, he was educated by American schools, went on to receive a Pulitzer Prize while working as a journalist at the Washington Post, and eventually disclosed his undocumented status to advocate for a much-needed debate around citizenship. He exemplifies what America is about."

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called on Texas officials to use "prosecutorial discretion" and release Vargas, stating that he is an important figure in the fight for immigration reform.

"Jose is an American in every sense but one—his papers," Mark-Viverito said in a statement. "He is an inspiration to the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe we need immigration reform now and lament that Congress has repeatedly dragged the immigration debate into endless sideshows."

Vargas traveled to McAllen, Texas with a camera crew from, Define American, a nonprofit U.S. immigration reform campaign he created in 2011, to interview and film undocumented minors attempting to escape violence in Central American countries, the Huffington Post reported. He sought to leave McAllen with a passport issued in the Philippines but did not realize that he had to go through an interior U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint set up within 45 miles of McAllen.

He was arrested while trying to board the plane and subsequently brought to a border patrol station for questioning. In his last tweet, posted to his Twitter account early Tuesday morning, he wrote, "The only IDs I have for security: Philippine passport and my pocketbook US Constitution," including photos of his passport and the pocketbook.

Born in Antipolo, Philippines, Vargas, a well-known undocumented immigrant, moved to the United States in 1993, at the age of 12. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Vargas has worked for a variety of publications, including the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone and the San Francisco Chronicle.

He revealed his status as an undocumented immigrant in an essay for the New York Times in June 2011 to incite more discussions about the state of the immigration system in the United States.

For updates on Vargas' status and whereabouts, follow @DefineAmerican and @MAC_UPTA on Twitter.

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