Pulitzer-Prize winning undocumented journalist Jose Antonio Vargas detained in Texas


Jose Antonio Vargas, the subject of "Documented" which recently aired on CNN, is an undocumented gay man from the Philippines who came out about his immigration status in a highly public way after a launching a successful career in journalism. He recently went to cover the Central American refugee crisis at the border and has been detained in Texas, according to CNN.

In the documentary, Vargas noted that he is not hiding his status and, unlike other undocumented people, has been able to fly across the country to speak about his life and the need for reform, but he worried that any moment he could be detained.

An estimated 11 million undocumented people live in fear of detention as they move throughout the country in order to work, visit family, go to school and take care of many mundane tasks. An estimated 267,000 of these immigrants are LGBT and do not have any way to fix their status because neither the House nor the President has taken action on immigration reform.

Vargas did not qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order which allowed some undocumented young people to apply for work permits although it is not a permanent solution to their immigration status. He also has not been able to take advantage of the repeal of DOMA and the federal orders that allow binational LGB spouses to fix the undocumented partner's status. Although these programs have helped some, they continue to not work for everybody, require tremendous sacrifices and do not eliminate challenges like lack of access to healthcare or high out-of-state tuition fees for undocumented students.

Vargas went to Texas to report on the status of children and adults from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who have shown up at the border fleeing home countries plagued by violence, poverty and social breakdowns as this article explains.

Many advocates have also pointed to a private detention system, in which Vargas is now interacting, as part of the problem. The detention system  has been under a daily 34,000 bed quota, creating an impetus for raids, and has been plagued with accusations of abuse by LGBT and non-LGBT immigrants alike. Unlike the criminal justice system immigration law does not provide a right to counsel, as explained by a piece in the New York Times.

Hopefully Vargas' situation will help make visible that of so many others who have been living, working and going to school in the United States but forced to live in the shadows.