Jose Antonio Vargas Detained

Undocumented foreign born American, “Jose Antonio Vargas of Define American, has been detained by Border Patrol in McAllen after attempting to board a plane to Los Angeles,” reported United We Dream, this morning.
At the age of 12, Jose was sent by his mother from the Philippines to live with his grandfather.  He had a Green Card.  The only problem, which he only found out by presenting the Green Card while seeking a driver’s license four years later, was that the Green Card was not genuine.

It’s tough at the age of 16 to have your dreams shattered.

But he found plenty of help pursuing his dreams. Help that he called his personal Underground Railroad.  Teachers. Principals. Employers. Friends. Jose graduated from college, worked for internationally acclaimed news organizations, interviewed global leaders and entrepreneurs, wrote and directed an AIDS documentary, and won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre.

Jose Antonio Vargas came out as gay while still in high school.  Twelve years later, in a New York Times article, Jose described his life as an undocumented immigrant.  About teaching himself English: ” ‘Though I learned English in the Philippines, I wanted to lose my accent. During high school, I spent hours at a time watching television (especially “Frasier,” “Home Improvement” and reruns of “The Golden Girls”) and movies (from “Goodfellas” to “Anne of Green Gables”), pausing the VHS to try to copy how various characters enunciated their words.'”  And created a website, Define American, to take the conversation of the plight of undocumented foreign born Americans public.

On February 25, 2013, Jose presented his story to Cleveland leaders invited to the offices of Margaret W. Wong & Associates.  The visit, documented on, includes this Q&A between Ms. Wong and Jose:

Jose went to McAllen this past week to interview the undocumented children flooding the US border, seeking to understand their motivations, hopes and aspirations.  The only thing he was not aware of was that to fly out of McAllen, Texas, to anywhere else in the US, you have to pass through a US Border Patrol checkpoint.

Since his essay in the New York Times, Jose has been investigating and reporting stories of undocumented successes and losses, testifying before Congress about immigration reform, and constantly living in fear that he may be detained for his stance, once hidden, now defiantly open.

The immediate future for Jose Antonio Vargas is uncertain. We applaud his efforts to this point in reporting and documenting the plight of the undocumented foreign born, and can only suppose he’ll be as prolific reporting from within the immigration enforcement system as he has been from without.