Feds won't act against journalist in US illegally

October 8, 2012 - 6:34 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Immigration authorities said Monday they won't take action against a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was arrested in Minnesota for driving without a valid license.

Jose Antonio Vargas attracted national attention last year when he revealed that he's an illegal immigrant. He was scheduled to speak at Carleton College in Northfield last Friday but never made it.

When a state trooper stopped him in Minneapolis for driving with headphones on, Vargas produced a canceled Washington state driver's license, said Lt. Eric Roeske, a spokesman for the Minnesota State Patrol.

"He did not have a valid license, and the identification he produced when the trooper ran a check on it indicated it was canceled due to some sort of fraudulent activity, so there was some doubt to his actual identity," Roeske said.

Vargas was booked at the Hennepin County Jail and released on his own recognizance Friday pending a court appearance set for Oct. 18. The State Patrol contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Roeske said, but the federal agency did not block his release.

An ICE spokeswoman in Washington said Monday that the agency intends to leave Vargas alone because he's not a high priority.

"Mr. Vargas was not arrested by ICE nor did the agency issue a detainer," Gillian Christensen said in an email statement. "ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of public safety threats, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States."

Vargas was part of a Washington Post team that won a Pulitzer in 2008 for coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre. The revelation about his immigration status, in an essay published in the New York Times Magazine in June 2011, raised questions about what his former employers knew of his legal status. The Post condemned him for keeping it secret.

Washington state officials canceled Vargas' driver' license in July 2011. He wrote in his essay that he obtained it after the Oregon license he used to get his job at the Post expired.

Vargas did not immediately return messages seeking comment Monday.

He wrote in his Times essay that his mother sent him from the Philippines to live with grandparents in California in 1993 when he was 12 years old. He wrote that he didn't find out he was in the country illegally until he applied for a driver's permit with forged documents.

Vargas now leads an initiative called "Define American," which campaigns for immigration reform.