“The word nobody wants to use, but you see if you are here illegally, that’s the punishment, deportation.” Tom Tancredo
By Alex P. Vidal
What happened to immigrant activist Jose Antonio Vargas last July 15 (July 16 in Iloilo) also happened to two residents of Passi City, Iloilo, who were deported to the Philippines sometime in 2009.
While trying to board a flight to Los Angeles, California after reporting on the rising numbers of unaccompanied Central American children crossing the US-Mexico border, Vargas, 33, was arrested by Texas Border Patrol and detained at the McAllen-Miller International Airport in southern Texas for being an undocumented alien.
But unlike Vargas, who was released the same day after being processed by Border Patrol agents and provided with a notice to appear in immigration court, the two Passi residents were reportedly deported back to the Philippines as they lacked the proper papers to be in the United States.
The information was relayed to me personally when I went to Dallas in 2011 by some of their companions who remained in Texas until today.
They and several others had been working in the U.S. without legal documents for several years before their arrest in the Texas-Mexico border, it was learned.
The batch of Passi visitors were reportedly recruited by a prominent US-based Passi City politician after the 2004 elections in the Philippines.
“We helped him (the politician) during the elections and, in return, he brought us to the US as he had promised,” said Biboy (not his real name), the deportees’ US companion who refused to be named for security reasons. “It was a mistake (for the two) to try to board an LA-bound flight using their Philippine passports with expired tourist visas. We had warned them (against taking that flight).”
Biboy said when the duration of their tourist visa had expired, they decided not to return to the Philippines and went TNT (Tago Ng Tago), a term for Filipinos in the US without legal papers.
The two deportees, both males, wanted to visit relatives at La Mirada and Anaheim, California, Biboy revealed.
Biboy and the remaining Ilonggo TNTs said they transferred from one city to another in Texas and never attempted to travel and cross the state.
They are scattered in San Antonio, Arlington, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, Galveston and Corpus Christi.
“We have plenty of relatives in California, especially in San Diego, but the problem is most of us are afraid to travel there because of what happened to (names of the deportees),” he lamented.
We learned that when they arrived together with other Filipino deportees in a special flight via Clark International Airport in Pampanga, they were handcuffed like criminals, Biboy narrated.
Trained as a journalist and worked for The Washington Post, where he was part of the team that won a 2008 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings, Vargas was not deported immediately.
Fellow immigrant activists staged a rally outside the detention facility to demand for his immediate release.
Vargas found himself in the national spotlight in 2011, when he narrated about his undocumented status in the New York Times Magazine which became a hit among all the TNTs including those from Latin countries like Mexico, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.
Vargas was able to Tweet that “the only IDs I have for security: Philippine passport and my pocketbook US Constitution.”
Vargas is a prominent figure in the crusade for comprehensive US immigration reform. They are hoping that the Obama administration will legalize the status of more than 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the US.
White House deputy press secretary, Shawn Turner, said Vargas’ arrest was a “law enforcement issue involving a specific case, so it would not be appropriate for the White House to comment.”