On the Border: Exodus 22:21*

As the US sends the first planeload of mothers & children back to Honduras, not all the activists on scene are rightwingers:

Undocumented immigrant and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas has been released by McAllen, Texas Border Patrol after being detained for several hours.

“As an unaccompanied child migrant myself, I came to McAllen, Texas, to shed a light on children who parts of America and many in the news media are actively turning their backs on,” Vargas said in a statement. “But what I saw was the generosity of the American people, documented and undocumented, in the Rio Grande Valley. I’ve been released by Border Patrol. I want to thank everyone who stands by me and the undocumented immigrants of south Texas and across the country.”

Border Patrol arrested the activist in Texas on Tuesday during his attempt to pass through security at McAllen-Miller International Airport, United We Dream said in a statement. Vargas is associated with the nonpartisan network, which advocates for the fair treatment of immigrant youths and their families.

He was questioned by Border Patrol on Tuesday morning, said Ryan Eller, director of Define American, an initiative that Vargas founded.

A Filipino-born activist, reporter, and filmmaker, Vargas is arguably the most famous undocumented immigrant in the United States. He emigrated from the Philippines when he was 12 years old, and revealed his true immigration story in a 2011 New York Times article. Vargas explained in the article that he didn’t know his green card was fake until he tried to apply for a driver’s permit at the age of 16…

Vargas said he didn’t know about the Border Patrol checkpoints “about an hour’s drive north of the border”, or that “Border Patrol agents stand alongside Transportation Security Administration personnel to check documentation – even for domestic flights” until he was already in the Rio Grande Valley.


52 replies
  1. 1
    Corner Stone says:

    Some of those kids are decidedly brown. Obvious criminals.

  2. 2
    Corner Stone says:

    Seriously, I do not get this whole Vargas scandal. He has a passport from the Philippines. Is that not good enough to get in country and stay here?
    If it isn’t, what made him think he was better than the law?

  3. 3
    Thomas F says:

    If you didn’t know that you’d need your papers at an international airport, then you deserve to be deported. Idiot.

  4. 4
    Violet says:

    Those border patrol checkpoints are a pain in the ass. I have a friend who works near one and to do his work he has to go back and forth through it on at least a weeklly basis. Sometimes daily. It typically adds an hour to his trip. They’re marked on maps but most people wouldn’t expect them. After all, they’re not on the border–they’re well inside the US.

  5. 5
    RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual says:

    I thought the President was the most famous undocumented immigrant in the country. /wingnut

  6. 6
    Corner Stone says:

    And, you know, we’re a nation of over 300M+. We can’t help some 50K or 60K in some determined timeframe?
    Breaks my fucking heart we’re sending kids back.

  7. 7
    Thomas F says:

    If you didn’t know that you’d need your papers at an international airport, then you deserve to be deported. Fool.

  8. 8
    beltane says:

    They have, or had, these checkpoints and hour’s drive south of the Canadian border, too.

    As for the children, this and the pictures coming out of Gaza are making me think that humans are just one incredibly nasty species of ape.

  9. 9
    Corner Stone says:

    @Violet: One of my best friends lives in Juarez but works in El Paso.
    He has the EZ Pass and goes back and forth every day like nothing.
    My dad lives south of Tucson and we see cage patrols roaming the highways like crazy.
    It’s very strange.

  10. 10
    GregB says:

    So, in the Bible, weren’t the people who wouldn’t give baby Jesus and his family any shelter considered assholes?

  11. 11
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Thomas F: Fuck you. Yeah, I know you are a right-wing troll. But still, fuck you.

  12. 12
    Violet says:

    @Corner Stone: Do you know his story? How he was sent here as a kid, didn’t know he had a fake green card until he went for his drivers license. He then hid his undocumented status for years.

    Just having a passport doesn’t mean you get to stay here. Need a visa or green card. He grew up here though, so he identities an American. Would like to be one but there’s no path for him.

  13. 13
    Corner Stone says:

    @Violet: Yes, as I understand it he arrived when he was 12.

  14. 14
    MattR says:

    I had read about this earlier today, but I am just making the mental connection that he was detained at an airport in Texas while trying to take a flight to Los Angeles. I guess I’m not really surprising that they would have Border Patrol agents along with the TSA given that the Border Patrol has other checkpoints within 100 miles of the border, but a bit jarring nonetheless.

  15. 15
    askew says:

    Vargas was already released. I’d rather focus on the kids than an activist myself.

    LA mayor
    has agreed to take some of these refugees into temporary shelters.

    Ignoring the sensationalist headline by Politico, Maryland Gov. O’Malley has also agreed to take some of these refugees into Maryland just not at the facility that was vandalized by rightwing nutjobs out of concern for their safety.

    “We are working as quickly as possible to determine if that facility can be licensed, if the federal government wants to use that site,” said a senior O’Malley administration official.

    “Governor O’Malley has been discussing this issue for weeks with the White House, he has helped identify ways Maryland can assist with this humanitarian crisis, and he has directed the Maryland Department of Human Resources to take the steps necessary to find licensed providers who might be able to care for these children in Maryland,” said O’Malley press secretary Nina Smith.

    I hope others will step soon as well especially Gov. Dayton in my Minnesota. We have been host to a lot of refugees from around the world and should be able to accommodate some of these children as well.

  16. 16
    Corner Stone says:

    Meanwhile, Dir Homeland Sec Jeh Johnson has been carrying out President Obama’s determination that sending them back is the best course.

  17. 17
    Laertes says:

    @Thomas F:

    If you didn’t know that you’d need your papers at an international airport, then you deserve to be deported. Idiot.

    I’ve been flying, domestically and internationally, for going on 20 years now. It would never have occurred to me that my immigration status would be checked on a domestic flight. I’ve flown out of O’Hare and LAX, both international airports, more often than I can count. Never needed more than a driver’s license, unless I was returning on an international flight.

    Good God. That photo. Those kids are so damn cute. Absolutely breaks my heart what’s happening to them. Wish I could take one in.

  18. 18
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Corner Stone: I’m sure they’ve got AK-47s hidden in their pants.

    Lord knows that guys like Rep. Rich Nugent have more than enough room in their pants to hide an AK-47.

  19. 19
    piratedan says:

    @Corner Stone: because the Tucson corridor up I19 has a good many deaths associated with it as folks try and cross that countryside known as the Sonoran Desert. Coyotes leave folks at the first sign of trouble and leave them on their own where the summertime temps climb into the 100-110 range routinely. It’s a main enforcement area because of the trafficking in people, drugs, weapons and money (not all of this is one way, mind you). Once you clear Tucson, they’re (migrants, money, drugs and guns) a lot harder to track.. Pima and Santa Cruz county are relatively sane in how the enforce and treat immigrants but you get above them and you’re dealing with Babeu and Arpaio and they’re not exactly sane and reasonable people.

  20. 20
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    Is that bit in the bible about ‘suffer the little children’ one of those written in red? I am so ready to rejoin this amazingly nice group of people…….. not.
    (No offense meant to those religious persons who have not lost their empathy and are supporting those assisting these children.)

  21. 21
    askew says:

    OT – Did anyone catch Hillary’s interview on The Daily Show? It appears she is really going to run. For some reason, a part of me thought she would pass.

  22. 22
    Laertes says:

    Also: I know that it’s fucked up that seeing that picture makes a difference. I mean, kids are kids. We knew there were little kids there. Knowing and seeing are different. That photo is a kick in the junk.

  23. 23
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Debbie(aussie): The stuff written in red is fully optional, unlike the crap in Leviticus that was written by a bunch of sheep herders.

  24. 24

    It’s like conservatives have never heard of the Flight into Egypt. I bet Jesus looked like a diseased rapist as well.

    @Corner Stone: Unless you’ve read something I haven’t, that’s a bit disingenuous. Jeh has called for expanding a voluntary program, that if the kids/parents want to return, that we will arrange to return them. He’s also called for picking up the pace of deporting adults as a way to send a message back to those countries that they shouldn’t assume that the trip will work for them. He’s also warned that if we don’t get more money to take care of these kids, that conditions for them will become so poor that it would be a disservice to keep them here (which sounds like politicking), but I haven’t seen any statement that he’s looking to deport kids back into harm.

  25. 25
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: and should be followed or your mortal soul be in danger… how many of them actually follow all those rules anyway? :)

  26. 26
    askew says:

    @⚽️ Martin:

    They did send a group of refugees back to Honduras. There was an interview with a mom with her infant who cried the whole way back and said she was going to turn around and come right back. So, unfortunately, some of the returnees are involuntary. Don’t know if that is just kids with adults or kids who came here alone.

  27. 27
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    We have a similar problem/issue here about ‘boat people’. We currently have 154 persons on board a customs vessel out at sea awaiting a high court ruling. The process with those poor persons attempting to get here are now discussed under ‘sovereign borders’ and no information will be revealed. Australia, a great democracy, no.

  28. 28
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    This might explain things

  29. 29
    Arclite says:

    When you’ve lost Radley Balko…

  30. 30
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Hey, Leviticus even repeats the admonition from Exodus in the title:

    Leviticus 19:33
    When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.
    Leviticus 19:34
    The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

    For all they keep quoting their Bible, you’d think they’d have read that bit once or twice!

  31. 31
    BruinKid says:

    @Thomas F: That’s so interesting, because I’ve been to LAX multiple times to fly across the country on domestic flights, and I’ve NEVER had to bring my passport. And I also look foreign, since I’m not white or black.

    So, you’re either lying, or stupid, or both. Which is it?

  32. 32

    @BruinKid: I don’t have a current passport. Most people don’t. I also don’t have any documentation of my citizenship that I take with me. Most people don’t either.

  33. 33
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @BruinKid: I lean towards the latter. The ONLY time I’ve brought my passport to LAX is to travel overseas. While I generally avoid LAX, I have traveled domestically from there.

  34. 34
    Xenos says:

    @Corner Stone: family reunification visas (highest priority after married-to-a-citizen visas) have a backlog measured in decades. It 27 years a while ago, not sure what it is now.

    If we cleared the backlog and took everyone in who did things right and are now just waiting we would be doing what the righties have demanded.

    But what they have demanded and what they want are two different things.

  35. 35
    Botsplainer says:


    @Corner Stone: family reunification visas (highest priority after married-to-a-citizen visas) have a backlog measured in decades. It 27 years a while ago, not sure what it is now.

    This. All the caterwauling about “we don’t hate legal immigrants” is pharisaicism writ large.

  36. 36
    satby says:

    @Botsplainer: Well, they would have to fund the government for the agencies to fully staff up and be efficient, and that would take taxes, so no can do. Exxon needs its subsidy.

  37. 37
    rk says:

    @⚽️ Martin:

    I don’t have a current passport. Most people don’t. I also don’t have any documentation of my citizenship that I take with me. Most people don’t either.

    I’m assuming you are white. If you’re brown try crossing the California-Arizona border without papers. A friend of mine legally working for an American company was detained at the border. He was going to a conference in Arizona. He did not have his green card with him (because who goes around carrying their green card). They detained him for 4 hrs while he tried to contact his bosses to confirm that he was legal and was indeed going for the conference. Another factor which the general population does not seem to understand is that if you are brown you dare not say a word to these cops otherwise they can and will toss you in some godforsaken deportation center for any reason they see fit. This happened two yrs ago when I don’t think there was too much awareness among brown people that their time had come.

  38. 38
    another Holocene human says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: they were goat herders, dammit, get it right

    Why do you think they condemn goats or toss epithets all the time? Goats are randy ass mfers and they knew all about their habits and this was a sex control back country cult. (The city peoples religion has a pretty rich archeological record. Ugarit?)And the ot as we know it dates to the Persian era. Unlike the Greeks and then Romans, Parsis and Hebes got on.

    Ironically probably .

  39. 39
  40. 40
    Eric U. says:

    @rk: I was assuming they meant that they check the papers of people that are non-white or have an accent. Are the airlines going to start refusing to board people that don’t have passports like they do on international flights?

  41. 41
    Corner Stone says:

    @⚽️ Martin: I don’t have a transcript, but MSNBC several times showed a clip of Jeh saying the same thing. To paraphrase, “So the message is we’re sending you back.”
    He was talking about the 20 kids and handful of adult females being sent back to Honduras. So I disagree with your claim that stating the Obama WH / Admin’s policy is to involuntarily deport is somehow disingenuous.

  42. 42
    Cervantes says:

    Anne Laurie: Thanks for sticking with this story.

  43. 43
    rk says:

    @Eric U.:

    Are the airlines going to start refusing to board people that don’t have passports like they do on international flights?

    I don’t think that there’s any reason why airlines should even think about checking passports or papers of domestic passengers. But who knows the path of right wing madness? Why should the California border patrol ask for papers from a person who is going to Arizona? Where’s the logic in that? I’m furious about this type of behavior. I don’t want to go to Arizona or any other crazy state. My kids look Hispanic. They can be picked up anytime by any overzealous idiot cop in a loony border state. Who carries important papers with them anytime they go out? Would white Americans trust that their teenage kids will take care of their passports or naturalization papers all the time. People have no idea what type of resentment is generated when govts try to appease the right wing. My friend is the most mild mannered gentle person I know. The only reason he was detained was because he was brown.It’s infuriating. I think I’m more angry on his behalf than he is. I’ve reached a stage where I’ve threatened to disown my children if they vote republican and I think I’m only half joking.

  44. 44
    Cervantes says:

    @Corner Stone: About the Vargas episode, there is one (small) good sign:

    Mr. Vargas has not previously been arrested by [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] nor has the agency ever issued a detainer on him or encountered him. […] ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the agency’s resources to promote border security and to identify and remove criminal individuals who pose a threat to public safety and national security.

    This ICE statement was released yesterday, whereas Vargas wrote about his undocumented status in the NYT in 2011.

  45. 45
    karen says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Isn’t that why they’re trying to write a Conservabible?

    IMO it seems like they’ve scrapped the New Testament and call the Testament G-d, Jesus.

  46. 46
    karen says:

    @Corner Stone: Can you please tell me who is Jeh?

  47. 47
    Corner Stone says:

    @karen: Current Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson.
    He recently visited the border areas.

  48. 48
    Console says:

    The “airport as a border nexus” gets abused in lots of different ways. DHS uses metadata to profile flight plans and then when that flight lands at a “international” airport they search the plane. You don’t need a warrant or even probable cause to search someone at a “border.” And this is for domestic flights.


    “During the last three years and five months ending in February, the tracking operation investigated 1,375 flights. Of those, authorities intercepted 212 at airports and made 39 drug-related arrests. An additional eight were referred to the Federal Aviation Administration for possible regulatory enforcement.

    During the initial review, trackers consider such things as aircraft type, routes, altitudes, flight distances, where flights originate, whether flight plans are filed, the use of small airports and the identities of pilots, passengers and registered owners.

    Other pilots said they were told their flights were intercepted because of long travel distances, frequent course changes, landings at remote airports and questionable profiles such as flying east from California — all things they considered common occurrences in general aviation.”

  49. 49
    gene108 says:


    family reunification visas (highest priority after married-to-a-citizen visas) have a backlog measured in decades.

    I think the visa limits are set per country. Not all countries have the same backlog. USCISC Visa Bulletin is linked below.


    Applications for people from Mexico are backlogged to 1993.

    The other countries are not as bad, with the ones not listed I assume as being current.

  50. 50
    Keith G says:

    @Corner Stone: What’s missing in that picture at the top of this post is the President of United States. Yes I know that there are a large handful of good reasons (all calculated to the nth degree) for him not to be there. But I believe there can be a great benefit every now and then in following the exortation of one Jesus of Nazareth

    Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto (us)

    Occasionally the morally prescribed thing to do is also correct thing to do and is also good politics.

    While this does not live up to the pure horror of the tragedy of the MS St Louis (The Voyage of the Damned), it seems to me we should not even come close to repeating the stupidity of our previous mistakes. The courage to do the right thing, and to do it in absolute terms, might just be contagious.

  51. 51
    hildebrand says:

    Welcome to life in the Valley – where non-border checkpoints are the norm. I would love for all of those libertarian types to discover us down here. Nah, never mind, we are too far away from the action for it to matter to people who care about this kind of stuff.

    Too many days I listen to my students (I teach at a university with a 88% percent Hispanic population) talking about how they have been hassled, harassed, or otherwise bothered by all sorts of levels of law enforcement – it breaks my heart and I know there is nothing (right now) that we can do about it.

  52. 52
    Nutella says:


    Welcome to life in the Valley – where non-border checkpoints are the norm. I would love for all of those libertarian types to discover us down here.

    Yes, it’s appalling what happens “near” the borders, particularly the southern border but also sometimes in the north. They just stop people driving or walking down the street well inside the country and demand to see papers. It’s happened to me a couple of times and I avoid those parts of the country now because it’s so infuriating — not good for my ulcers. This method doesn’t work so well for the people (the CITIZENS, FFS) who live there.

    The feds claim that they can demand papers from anyone any time with 100 miles of any border. That’s most of the country since ‘border’ includes the aquatic ones. Some day soon they’ll be doing this in the streets of New York, Chicago, LA, Miami, Seattle, etc.

    Federal stop and frisk, every bit as bad as the local cops’ stop and frisk.

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