On Tuesday, the U.S. Border Patrol released Jose Antonio Vargas, who has described himself as the country’s “most privileged” illegal immigrant, after detaining him earlier in the day at McAllen Airport for not having U.S. identification.
Vargas said he came to McAllen, Texas, “to shed a light on children who parts of America and many in the news media are actively turning their backs on. But what I saw was the generosity of the American people, documented and undocumented, in the Rio Grande Valley.”
“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. Our daily lives are filled with fear in simple acts such as getting on an airplane to go home to our family,” he continued in a statement released by Define American, an activist organization for illegal immigrants he co-founded. “With Congress failing to act on immigration reform, and President Obama weighing his options on executive action, the critical question remains: how do we define American?”
In a previous essay in Politico, Vargas had written that his celebrity and “visibility, frankly, has protected me” from deportation and detention. He acknowledged that “while hundreds of thousands of immigrants have been detained and deported in the past three years,” he has produced documentaries, co-founded an activist organization for illegal immigrants, and traveled to 43 different states.
Vargas was reportedly released with a notice to appear before an immigration judge, which is what many of the illegal immigrants flooding across the border think are “permisos” that will allow them to indefinitely stay in the country.