07/16/2014 03:25 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2014

Jose Antonio Vargas Says His Detention At The Border Wasn't A Stunt

Jose Antonio Vargas, the nation's most prominent undocumented immigrant, said Wednesday that his detention at the border wasn't a scheme to draw attention to immigration reform.

"People have been asking me if this was some sort of a stunt," Vargas said in a phone interview with CNN. "Is it a stunt to get on a plane to leave, to try to get out from South Texas? Either driving or flying out I was going to be checked. I had to make a choice and my lawyers advised me I should actually try to fly out in the same way I flew in. That's the risk I had to take. But again, that's the risk undocumented people take every day."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a former HuffPost editor, flew to the border last week to interview undocumented immigrants who have fled their home countries in Central America due to escalating violence. But he was detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents for several hours on Tuesday after attempting to board a flight out of McAllen, Texas. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency ultimately released Vargas because he didn't "pose a threat to public safety and national security."

His detention caused some to question whether he intended to be caught by authorities in order to further his cause as an immigration activist.

"I did not anticipate it. I've been traveling around the country for the past three years," he told CNN. "I've never been to the Texas border. I've been to California. I've been to Arizona. The Texas border is basically a militarized zone."

CNN's Chris Cuomo followed up by asking why a video of his detention became public.

"For some reason there was actually a reporter there," Vargas said. "I don't even know from what publication."

The McAllen incident is not the first time Vargas has been detained by authorities over his undocumented status. In 2012, he was pulled over while driving in Minnesota, but was released by ICE under similar reasoning.



Overwhelmed Border Patrol