LOS ANGELES—Pulitzer Prize-winning Filipino-American journalist and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas was arrested Friday (Saturday in Manila) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after he was caught driving without a valid license.
Vargas, 31, who was part of the Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2008 Virginia Tech massacre, was booked into the Hennepin County jail and released on the same day, the Minnpost reported Sunday.
In the piece “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant” which he wrote for The New York Times last year, Vargas revealed how he discovered his undocumented status as a teenager and how he kept it a secret as a working journalist. His driver’s license was revoked the following month.
Vargas related in his essay that he migrated to the United States from the Philippines in 1993 at the age of 12 on the wish of his mother, Emilie Salinas. He moved to California, where his grandparents had arranged forged documents for him.
When he was 16, Vargas found out he was in the country illegally after he tried to get a driver’s permit with a fake green card.
Since the essay was published in June 2011, Vargas has become a popular public figure in the forefront of a national campaign for immigration reform. He was on the cover of the June 25, 2012, issue of Time magazine.
Hearing about the arrest, hundreds of Vargas supporters posted their concern on Twitter and Facebook. Responding to the postings, Vargas tweeted: “Thank you to everyone for your support. I am fine.”
Vargas has been promoting the passage of the Dream Act, which would provide a pathway to the legalization of the status of thousands of undocumented young immigrants. He has also launched the “Define American” campaign to harness support for the 12 million undocumented people in the United States, one million of whom are Filipinos.
The nonprofit news organization Minnpost reported that Vargas was stopped by a state
patrol officer because he was wearing headphones while driving. He was on his way from the airport to Carleton College to give a lecture.
Vargas is scheduled to appear in Hennepin County court on Oct. 18.
Hennepin County participates in the Secure Communities program, a Bush era initiative that allows local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with the federal government in enforcing immigration laws by checking arrestees against immigration databases. If an individual is found to be undocumented, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement could act on his case.