MANILA – For Jose Antonio Vargas, his arrest and subsequent release after trying to fly out of Texas was a reality-- and not a stunt-- that many undocumented people like him face in the United States.
“What is the stunt? I had to get out of South Texas. I had to either get out by car or by plane,” he told Anderson Cooper’s 360 on CNN. “If I get out by car, and if you have driven me by car you would have gotten apprehended for smuggling me out. So it’s either I get out by car or I get out by plane. That's the reality of what's it like to be undocumented in this country.”
Vargas went to McAllen, Texas on Thursday morning to document the plight of thousands of child refugees there.
“The moment I got there, one of the young women, one of the people who lived there, Tanya Chavez, said to me 'Oh my God! I'm very happy you’re here. But how are you gonna get out?' And I looked at her and said, ‘What are you talking about? I've been flying around the country with this Filipino passport as ID and there's never been a problem',” he said.
He was told that at the Texas border, there’s always a checkpoint or border patrol at the airport. He admitted that in all his travels across the country, “there’s never been a border patrol agent next to the TSA person”.
“So all of these started sinking in by Thursday night and I talked to my friends, I talked to the people at Define American and we’re trying to figure out how am I gonna get out of here. They were trying to figure out how to like sneak me out.”
“And I'm thinking, wait a second, like I have the agency to tell people when you’re undocumented in this country and you don’t have a single piece of government-issued ID, this is the situation that you find yourself in,” he said.
On Tuesday, Vargas was detained and held for hours at the airport in McAllen after trying to fly out of Texas. Reports said that he told Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents that he was in the country illegally.
Vargas was only carrying with him a pocket-size US Constitution, a boarding pass, and his Philippine passport with a US visa. --With a report from Balitang America