Journalist-turned-activist Jose Antonio Vargas was escorted by police from a Mitt Romney media event on Friday, after he attempted to ask a question about the Republican candidate's views on immigration.
Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize winner and formerly worked for the Washington Post and for The Huffington Post as a senior contributing editor from 2009-10. He "came out" as an undocumented immigrant in a New York Times magazine piece in June, revealing that he arrived in the United States at the age of 12 from the Philippines without knowing he had a fake visa. Vargas is the founder of Define American, an advocacy group that pushes for comprehensive immigration reform.
Vargas attended a Romney event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the candidate held a question-and-answer session after his speech. Vargas said he tried to ask a question about Romney's solution for dealing with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.
He said he planned to first say he is undocumented, then ask Romney to give his definition of an American.
"If there was any time for follow up, I would then push back and say, 'Sir, when you say secure the border' -- I would bring up statistics about the illegal border crossings being down," he told HuffPost. "And then I would say, when you say 'get in the back of the line,' would you tell me where that line is?"
But when he raised his hand, he said a Romney staffer stood in front of him, attempting to block him from view. When another audience member questioned the candidate about immigration, Vargas held up a sign that said "I am an American without papers."
He said that was the extent of his actions and that he attended the event to ask a question of the candidate, not to cause problems or protest. After the event, when Vargas entered a room where the candidate would answer questions from reporters, he said Romney staff members asked him to leave.
He said he was escorted out of the event by on-site police, who said the building was private and that the owner wanted him to leave.
The Romney campaign said Vargas was allowed to attend the public event in his capacity as a political activist, but was asked to leave a media availability because he did not have press credentials.
Vargas acknowledged that he did not have press credentials, although said he has had them when he covered previous campaigns. He writes for his website, Define American, about immigration issues, including a recent blog post on his visit to Alabama.
He plans to stay in Iowa until Sunday and ask the GOP candidates more questions. Most of the candidates have advocated for additional border security and decried amnesty, but have failed to give clear outlines of their immigration platforms.
"I am merely trying to ask the hard questions," he said. "That's what a journalist does, and that's what I'm here to do. I think that is what all of the Republican candidates have done, to really avoid the issue."
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