A number of Democratic members of Congress on Tuesday tweeted their support for immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas after he was detained by Border Patrol agents at a Texas airport.
The documentary filmmaker and high-profile immigration activist, who has been living in the country without a visa, was detained at the McAllen-Miller International Airport in Texas by Border Patrol officials while trying to fly to Los Angeles.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) noted Vargas’s former work as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at The Washington Post, saying he does not belong in a jail cell.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said his detention highlights the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) called for the release of Vargas, saying no child raised in the United States should be deported.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), representing the city where Vargas lives, also called for "his quick release and hope that he can stay in the country that has been his home and to which he has contributed so much."
Vargas, whose film “Documented” recently premiered, went to McAllen, Texas, 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.
However, McAllen's proximity to the border required that customs officials check identification of travelers to determine if they are U.S. citizens or authorized to travel in the United States, making it difficult for Vargas to leave. Border Patrol stations are also set up on roads out of the town.
He sent out a series of tweets shortly before going through security with only his passport from the Philippines without a visa to be in the United States.
Vargas came to the country at the age of 12 in 1993. He does not qualify for the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival program set up by the Obama administration in 2012 because he is too old.
The White House said it had no reaction to his detention.
"I'm not in a position to talk about individual enforcement cases from the podium," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.
Vargas's group Define American has set up a petition to stand with him and has called on supporters to tweet to U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement and President Obama.