Before His Detainment Today, Jose Antonio Vargas on Why 'the Media Has Largely Failed' Undocumented Immigrants

As talks on Capitol Hill to overhaul the immigration system have fizzled out in recent months, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas has embarked on a mission to educate the American public about its surging immigrant population and the cracks within its immigration laws. On Tuesday morning, Mashable reported that the Customs and Border Patrol had detained Vargas — an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines — at an airport in McAllen, Texas.

Perhaps America’s most visible undocumented immigrant, Vargas had traveled to Texas to visit a shelter for immigrants when he wrote on July 11 in Politico Magazine that “for an undocumented immigrant like me, getting out of a border town in Texas — by plane or by land — won’t be easy. It might, in fact, be impossible.” The founder of Define American, an advocacy group for undocumented immigrants, Vargas recently released his film Documented, which chronicles his journey to America at age 12 and his realization four years later that he, in fact, was not a legal immigrant.

In May, Asia Society New York held a special screening of Documented, followed by a Q&A with Vargas. “There’s such a stereotype about this issue,” Vargas said at the time. “One out of five Koreans in this country are undocumented. One out of six Filipinos in this country are undocumented. … People don’t know that. I have to say, the media has largely failed us.”

Watch: Jose Antonio Vargas explains what inspired him to make Documented (3 min., 52 sec.)

About the Author

Profile picture for user Saahil Desai
Asia Blog contributor Saahil Desai is a junior at Pomona College, and a native of Cincinnati, Ohio.