Department of Homeland Security officials said they released the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and immigrant rights advocate, Jose Antonio Vargas, who was detained for most of Tuesday because he had no prior immigration or criminal record.
He empathized with the Central American children facing deportation given his immigration experience to the U.S. as a child, which is accounted in film, Documented, which is Napster co-founder Sean Parker funded.
The media frenzy surrounding Vargas’ arrest and speedy release ushers national attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Vargas must appear before an immigration judge and he like millions of others continue to live in limbo attempting to legalize their immigration status.
If Vargas can be released within a day, what about others who are in worse situations? Many other immigrants who are detained at immigration checkpoints end up becoming permanently barred from entering the country or remain stuck in detention.
Even Vargas admitted himself his privilege in Politico. “Identification aside, since outing myself in the New York Times Magazine in June 2011, and writing a cover story for TIME a year later, I’ve been the most privileged undocumented immigrant in the country.
Prior to his detention, Vargas told CNN that he and undocumented immigrant communities should be treated equally.
“Why the double standard? When I outed myself 3 years ago. My goal was to say I was 11 million people. I’m not asking for special treatment, I’m not asking for there to be a double standard, the government is doing that. My fate is tied to everyone else in the exact same situation. We’ve done way too much politicizing and not enough finding solution on this issue. The question is how you define American, that’s the question.”
A one-day detention is evidence of an expected ‘special treatment’ by the government as it continually applies ‘double standards’ to quell the public unrest of the immigration issue.
So who gets to stay in the U.S. and who will be deported?
Over the years, Congressional members rarely sponsored private immigration bills to make exceptions to the rule and keep families from separation. Vargas wrote in Politico that he, like many other undocumented immigrants, does not qualify for the federal DREAM Act (legislation that grant federal financial aid access and create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrant youth, which has yet to see passage in Congress) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), President Obama’s 2012 President Obama’s Executive Order that protects undocumented youth from deportation.
While Vargas is released, he will continue to work to advocate for reform. Until reform is passed, immigration policy remains fraught with contradictions between those who are defined as “American,” those as eligible to earn citizenship status, work legally, and stay in the U.S. and those who remain second-class undocumented citizens.