ICE decides not to detain Jose Antonio Vargas
Politico Jose Antonio Vargas, the writer and activist who went public last year with his status as an undocumented immigrant, was arrested for a driving infraction in Minnesota on Friday, but federal immigration authorities did not detain him or take any other action, officials said Saturday.
Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter who revealed his status in The New York Times Magazine and touched off a debate in the journalistic community, was initially pulled over by a state trooper for driving while wearing head phones, Eric Roeske, public information officer for the Minnesota state patrol, told POLITICO.
“He did produce a Washington driver’s license” after being pulled over, Roeske said. “When the trooper ran the license, it showed the status [of the license] was canceled. It also indicated there may have been fraudulent activity associated with the license. That’s why [it might have been] canceled. That triggered the trooper to look into that further and contact ICE (U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”
Roeske, who had no details about the possible “fraudulent activity” regarding the license, said Vargas, who was in Minnesota for a speaking engagement that he ended up missing, “spoke to our captain that works with ICE, he had some conversations with Mr. Vargas.” Roeske said he didn’t “know what the nature of that conversation was.”
An ICE official with knowledge of the situation said in an email that “Mr. Vargas was not arrested by ICE and no detainer was issued.”
An immigration detainer is a notice issued from the Department of Homeland Security to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that tells them, “ICE intends to assume custody of an individual in [those agencies’] custody,” according to the ICE website.
Vargas was arrested by the state patrol and put in jail for not having a valid driver’s license, Roeske said. He was released several hours later and is slated to appear in district court on Oct. 18, according to MinnPost, the nonprofit publication that reported the story Friday.
Vargas did not immediately respond to POLITICO’s requests for comment.
Roeske said that it’s not unusual to arrest people, especially those from out of state, who can’t provide valid identification.
“I can’t say either way if that conversation [with the state Police’s liaison to ICE] had any impact in booking him into jail, but it does not appear to be a factor,” Roeske said. “An out-of-state person driving without a valid license, it would not be uncommon, if there was some question as to his identity, or this is a situation where we have an out-of-state person like that, it’s not uncommon to book.”
MinnPost reported that Vargas was arrested in Hennepin County, where law enforcement officials sometimes coordinate with ICE as part of the Secure Communities program, under which localities report undocumented immigrants they come across to the feds.
“Typically, when we will inform ICE if we have something that seems a little odd, they kind of take it from there; we don’t oftentimes get involved beyond that point,” Roeske said.
Vargas was in town to deliver a speech at Carleton College. A video of students waiting for Vargas is available online. A school official told them, in a clip captured on the video, that Vargas had encountered a personal emergency and sent his apologies for not making the event.
Vargas, who was slated to speak at the New Yorker Festival on Saturday, tweeted that he was “here at #nyerfest for ‘Giving Voice’ panel,” and also tweeted Friday night, “Thank you to everyone for your support. I am fine.”