01:45 - Source: CNN
Jose Antonio Vargas: I was trapped

Story highlights

Filmmaker and activist Jose Antonio Vargas and others write to DHS secretary

They seek deferred action on deportations for those like themselves with strong ties to U.S.

Vargas was detained by the border patrol in Texas last month

He was in the state to draw attention to the plight of migrant youth crossing the border

CNN —  

Filmmaker and activist Jose Antonio Vargas and 10 others asked the U.S. government on Wednesday to halt deportation proceedings against undocumented immigrants like themselves who have strong and productive ties to the United States.

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, they requested that he defer such punitive action and then ask President Barack Obama to consider “administrative relief” to those “who are integral members of our evolving American community.”

Vargas and the others said in their letter that they represent just a few of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“Often, we’re treated as abstractions, nameless and faceless, subjects of debate rather than individuals with families, hopes, fears, and dreams,” they wrote.

“Over the past decades, we have been working, worshiping in churches, going to school, and contributing to the communities we call home. We love, fight for, and pledge allegiance to an America whose flag does not recognize us,” they added.

In a statement, Johnson’s office did not mention the letter, but said he has “been taking a hard look” at “tough issues” around shortcomings in immigration policy and working to submit recommendations to Obama within “the confines of existing law.”

Customs and Border Patrol agents detained Vargas, also an award-winning journalist, last month in McAllen, Texas, after learning of his immigration status.

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He was there to call attention to the plight of tens of thousands of migrant youth from Central America, many of them unaccompanied, who have streamed across the southern border this year.

The surge has strained border services and reignited the debate over immigration reform in Washington, a cause that Vargas promotes.

A decision by Johnson to grant the request would delay any deportation proceedings with the hope that Obama would then use his executive authority to expand deportation protections or that Congress would agree to an overhaul of immigration law.

Obama used his executive authority in 2012 to grant work authorization for two years or more for those who came to the United States as children. Vargas missed the age eligibility by only months.

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Vargas became an immigration reform advocate in 2011 when he revealed he was undocumented in a column for The New York Times Magazine.

He came to the United States from the Philippines when he was 12 after his family paid for forged documents and a smuggler to bring him to the states.

Vargas lived with his grandparents and later became a journalist. He is the creator of ‘Documented,’ a film chronicling his life as an undocumented immigrant that aired on CNN.