Immigration Activist, Jose Antonio Vargas, is Released After Being Detained on Texas Border

 Jose Antonio Vargas, who has chronicled in minute detail the twists and turns of his life as a Filipino living illegally for years in the United States, was detained by the Border Patrol for most of the day on Tuesday and then released with a notice to appear before an immigration judge.

The detention of Mr. Vargas, probably the most high-profile leader of the immigrant rights movement, posed an awkward dilemma for the Obama administration. The surge of Central Americans, including many children, crossing the border illegally — saying they are fleeing criminal violence at home — has made all decisions about immigration politically fraught, and administration officials were keenly aware that the backdrop to their decision to release Mr. Vargas was a border where thousands of migrants are being held.

Mr. Vargas was detained at a Border Patrol checkpoint in the airport of this city in the Rio Grande Valley before he was to board a flight to Houston, on his way to Los Angeles. In a terse statement, Department of Homeland Security officials said they had released Mr. Vargas because he had no prior immigration or criminal record. They said their focus was on deporting immigrants who posed security threats.

It was the first time Mr. Vargas, who has been living without papers in the United States since 1993, had been arrested by immigration authorities. Lawyers assisting him said that they would seek to have the action against him suspended, and that it was unlikely he would be deported.

Mr. Vargas insisted that he never intended to be detained when he came to South Texas. But he and his supporters wasted no time turning his arrest into a day of high drama, using it to publicize their cause on social media and at a news conference in front of the Border Patrol station where he was held.

“I was released today because I am a low priority and not considered a threat,” Mr. Vargas said by telephone shortly after his release. “I would argue that the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country are not a threat either.”

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SOURCE: JULIA PRESTON and LAURA TILLMAN

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