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Philippine-born Pulitzer prize winner tangles with border patrol.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, a Philippines-born immigration activist who has lived in the US illegally since he was a child, was released by US Border Patrol agents on Tuesday after they detained him at a Texas airport.

In a statement late Tuesday, the Border Patrol said Vargas was arrested at the airport in McAllen, Texas, after telling an agent he was in the country illegally. Vargas was released on his own recognizance with a notice to appear before an immigration judge.

"Mr. Vargas has not previously been arrested by (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) nor has the agency ever issued a detainer on him or encountered him," the statement said. "ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the agency's resources to promote border security and to identify and remove criminal individuals who pose a threat to public safety and national security."

A spokeswoman for Define American, Vargas' advocacy group, confirmed his release Tuesday afternoon, but declined to offer more information about his release or whereabouts.

During the current surge in immigration in South Texas, it has been common for the Border Patrol to release people on their own recognizance, with notices to appear in court later. With such notices, people can generally travel throughout the U.S. without being detained again.

Vargas had been visiting McAllen for several days as part of a vigil to highlight the plight of unaccompanied immigrant children coming into the U.S. illegally who have overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities.

But at McAllen/Miller International Airport, Vargas knew he could have problems. Border Patrol agents stand alongside Transportation Security Administration personnel to check documentation -- even for domestic flights. Vargas does not have any government-issued US identification and was carrying only a passport issued by his native Philippines and a palm-size copy of the US Constitution.

On Tuesday morning, Vargas tweeted: "About to go thru security at McAllen Airport. I don't know what's going to happen."

The security checks at the airport -- and elsewhere in the Rio Grande Valley -- are familiar to people living along the Texas-Mexico border.


Jose Antonio Vargas (AFP)

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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Jul 16, 2014
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