Immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas was released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities Tuesday evening, with a notice to appear before an immigration judge, after spending several hours in detention at a southern Texas airport security checkpoint.
Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former journalist and outspoken immigrants’ rights advocate, was detained attempting to board a plane to Los Angeles at the McAllen-Miller International Airport. He had originally come to the border town to visit a shelter for unaccompanied child migrants, and said he did not realize until he was there that he would face possible detention upon leaving. Vargas was carrying only a Philippines passport, which did not have a U.S. visa.
“I've been released by Border Patrol,” Vargas said in a statement issued shortly after his release. “I want to thank everyone who stands by me and the undocumented immigrants of south Texas and across the country. Our daily lives are filled with fear in simple acts such as getting on an airplane to go home to our family.”
Vargas, 33, came to the United States at the age of 12 and discovered his undocumented status at age 16. He publicly announced his status in a 2011 New York Times Magazine piece and became one of the country’s most visible mouthpieces for immigration reform.
A statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security said Vargas was released for being a low-priority case. While his court date throws additional uncertainty on his case, the huge backlog faced by U.S. immigration courts likely means his hearing may be years away.