A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and immigration activist scheduled to speak at a Carleton College convocation on Friday was arrested earlier in the day at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
It was unclear why reporter Jose Antonio Vargas was stopped, according to MinnPost. He was booked into Hennepin County Jail at 10:49 a.m., charged with driving without a valid driver’s license and released shortly after 1:30 p.m.
He is scheduled to appear in Hennepin County District Court on Oct. 18.
On Friday afternoon, Carleton College emailed an apology for the cancellation, which the college says was “due to circumstances beyond the [college's] control.”
“Carleton extends apologies to those who had already arrived on campus for today’s convocation, as well as to those who planned to view the live-streamed broadcast,” says the Carleton email.
The convocation was scheduled for 10:50 a.m. Friday. Carleton says it hopes to reschedule Vargas’ appearance.
Vargas, a native of the Philippines, has worked for a number of national publications. In June 2011, he wrote the New York Times Magazine essay, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant,” in which he reveals his undocumented status.
Vargas’ arrest is particularly newsworthy because, says MinnPost, “the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the county jail, participates in Secure Communities, a Bush administration initiative to secure local law enforcement cooperation in reporting undocumented immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.”
ABC News says Vargas tweeted the following message Friday night: "Thank you to everyone for your support. I am fine.”
Here is the press release from Carleton announcing the convocation:
Jose Antonio Vargas, a noted journalist and activist whose story about his own status as an undocumented immigrant ranks among the most compelling that he has covered, will present Carleton College’s weekly convocation on Friday, Oct. 5. Convocation is held from 10:50-11:50 a.m. in the Skinner Memorial Chapel, and it is free and open to the public. Convocations are also streamed live and can be viewed online at http://apps.carleton.edu/events/convocations/.
In 2011, Vargas wrote a lengthy article for the New York Times Magazine entitled “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” It described how he was sent from the Philippines at an early age to live with his grandparents in California, only to discover at the age of 16 that his green card was a forgery. Vargas managed to conceal his status for 14 years, often with the help of sympathetic friends. He ultimately graduated from San Francisco State University and then embarked on a successful career in journalism. Yet he remained anxious about his secret, stressed from keeping it from his closest friends and guilty about living a lie.
“I tried to compartmentalize my fears, distract myself by reporting on the lives of other people, but there was no escaping the central conflict in my life,” Vargas wrote in the Times Magazine article. “Maintaining a deception for so long distorts your sense of self. You start wondering who you’ve become, and why.”
Finally, in 2011, he decided to come forward and tell his story. The resulting article received widespread media attention and an award from the Sidney Hillman Foundation. Vargas wrote a follow-up article for TIME magazine in June 2012 about the uncertainty of his status since he revealed that he is an undocumented immigrant. In 2011 he founded DefineAmerican, a group that seeks to “bring new voices into the immigration conversation” and contribute to fixing a broken immigration system.
After graduating from San Francisco State University, Vargas was hired by the Washington Post and made his reputation covering the HIV epidemic in Washington; he would go on to cover the 2008 presidential race as well as such topics as the growing video game culture in the United States. In 2007 he was among the reporters honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for their comprehensive coverage of a school shooting at Virginia Tech. Vargas eventually left the Post to become a senior contributing editor and columnist at The Huffington Post. Vargas’s work has also appeared in magazines like the New Yorker and Rolling Stone, and he has appeared on numerous television programs.