Undocumented Pinoy Jose Vargas trapped in Texas border town

Posted at 07/15/14 10:51 AM

REDWOOD CITY, California –The most popular undocumented immigrant in America, Jose Antonio Vargas, is having trouble returning home to New York from a border town in Texas.

Vargas, a Filipino-American Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, was smuggled to the US as an unaccompanied minor from the Philippines via the Pacific Ocean border, is currently in a border town in Texas trying to change the narratives of the conversation on the border crisis.

Vargas easily flew into McCallen, Texas last week to visit a shelter for unaccompanied Central American refugees.

But for undocumented immigrants like Vargas, getting out of this border town in Texas – by plane or by land – may not be easy.

In fact, according to Vargas, it might even be impossible to leave.

Security is tight in airports and immigration checkpoints are set up within a 45 mile radius of the border town. This is where many undocumented immigrants get caught, arrested, detained and processed for deportation.

Maria Lee Cruz, the communications and engagement director for Vargas’ immigration reform campaign Define American, told Balitang America that Vargas hopes he’ll be permitted to leave McAllen by presenting his only form of identification — his Philippine passport.

"He’s flown everywhere. So he’s going to hand his boarding pass to TSA (Transportation Security Administration) with his Filipino passport, and we’ll see what happens from there," Lee said in a Skype interview.

Vargas came out as an undocumented immigrant in 2011 and, so far, has escaped arrest and deportation.

With millions of other undocumented immigrants in the country who aren't as fortunate, Lee said it is a double standard that needs to be questioned.

"Stereotypes run deep and Jose doesn't look undocumented. He isn't brown enough and he speaks perfect English so why does he get a pass when others get profiled," Lee said.

On the possibility of Vargas being arrested or detained, Lee said: "At this point, we don't know. The thing is, this is why we do this work. It is not just about Jose, it's about the 11 million other undocumented people in the United States and we'll see what happens when he tries to get through airport security."

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