New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged U.S. Border Patrol officials to release Jose Antonio Vargas on Tuesday, calling him an exemplary model who should be allowed to stay in the United States.
"I stand in solidarity with journalist and advocate Jose Antonio Vargas -- an exemplary man whose tireless work has helped raise awareness around the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants living on American soil," de Blasio said in a statement. "Jose Antonio’s detainment today at a Texas airport, close to where he was working to document the plight of refugees, shows how our immigrant enforcement agencies are failing to use their discretion and detaining long-time immigrants who do not pose a threat to our security."
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who is also an undocumented immigrant, was taken into custody on Tuesday morning after he attempted to board a plane out of McAllen, Texas. Vargas flew to the border to film and interview undocumented minors fleeing escalating violence in their home countries in Central America. But what he didn't know is that in order to leave the border town, he would need to pass through an interior U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint.
A TSA agent at the McAllen-Miller Airport initially cleared Vargas' Phillipines-issued passport when he attempted to board a flight. He was placed into custody soon after, however, when he couldn't produce a U.S. visa at the request of a border patrol agent.
In his statement, de Blasio said Vargas deserved to be released because he "exemplifies what America is about."
The mayor's comments come in the wake of the fulfillment of a campaign promise. On Thursday, de Blasio signed into law an initiative that will offer identification cards to residents regardless of their immigration statuses. The ID cards will be given to anyone who can prove their identity and residency in New York City.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) also expressed his support of Vargas Tuesday afternoon, tweeting: "No one brought and raised here as a child should be expelled for being undocumented. #ReleaseJoseAntonioVargas."