Documentary filmmaker and high-profile immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas on Tuesday was detained at the McAllen-Miller International Airport in Texas by Border Patrol officials while trying to fly to Los Angeles.
Vargas, who has been living in the country without a visa in violation of the law, had worried that he would not be able to make it out of the border town because he did not have the proper paperwork.
Vargas highlighted the situation in an essay in Politico magazine last week. He went to McAllen with the immigration group United We Dream last week to visit a number of unaccompanied minors who crossed over the border illegally in the recent surge from Central America and are being held in a Department of Health and Human Services facility in McAllen, Texas.
Though he has been traveling the country and visited 40 states in the last three years, he said his visibility has usually protected him during domestic travel. McAllen's proximity to the border, however, required that custom officials check identification to determine if he was a U.S. citizen or authorized to travel in the United States.
Border Patrol checkpoints are also set up on roads that exit the town.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest had no reaction to the arrest.
"I'm not in a position to talk about individual enforcement cases from the podium," he said.
Vargas came to the country at the age of 12 in 1993 and has a passport from the Philippines. But he does not have a visa to be in the United States nor does he have any U.S. identification. He does not qualify for the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival program set up by the Obama administration in 2012.
He came out as an immigrant living in the country illegally in a New York Times article in 2011 titled "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant" — he finds the term "illegal immigrant" to be pejorative. His documentary "Documented" recently aired on CNN.
Update 6:30 p.m. — Vargas was released later in the day, he said in a statement, offering no further detail.