Jose Antonio Vargas, the undocumented journalist-cum-immigration-activist, has been detained after trying to fly out of McAllen, Texas, where he’d gone to report on the undocumented minors fleeing Central America. The former Washington Post reporter came to the United States from the Philippines as a minor and has become a prominent figure in the movement to secure citizenship for the millions of people in his circumstances. “I do not have a single U.S. government-issued ID,” Vargas recently wrote in Politico Magazine. His film on immigration and his life, “Documented,” was picked up by CNN.

The juxtaposition of Vargas’s current bind and the plight of the more than 50,000 children from Central America who’ve poured across the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months was enough to animate CNN this morning. In a piece for the Daily Beast, Keli Goff drew a distinction between the case of Vargas, who has no ties to his country of birth, and the children who’ve recently streamed into the United States from Central America. She appeared on “CNN Newsroom” and found her work under attack from Crystal Wright of Let them take it away:

Crystal Wright: We don’t have an obligation to take care of people who broke the law to enter our country illegally, continue to stay here…What you’re saying is that Vargas has a right to stay here because he was brought here illegally by his parents, he was a child once too, just like all those children trying to flood our borders — so you’re saying deport them, but he should stay…

Keli Goff: Here’s why I completely disagree with the comparison, though, between Jose and these children. Jose has no cultural ties at this point to the country in which he was born.

Wright: Well, neither do those children.

Goff: That’s not true — they just got here.

Wright: So they should have been deported the way Jose should have been deported when he first came over here. So what are you saying?

Goff: But he wasn’t. So what I’m saying is, Crystal, I mean, I don’t know whether you identify as African-American. I do.

Wright: Ooo, wow.

Goff: But if you dropped me off in Africa, I couldn’t speak the language…I wouldn’t have any cultural ties to the continent. Even though I’m a black American.


Goff: Jose doesn’t have cultural ties to the Philippines, because…

Wright: That’s not the same thing.

Goff: Why isn’t that?

Wright: Because I was born — my ancestors, I can trace them, were brought over here on slave ships. We helped build this country.

Goff: He was brought here not by choice.

On it went, with Wright cautioning against a comparison between slavery and illegal immigration — “illegals deliberately breaking laws to come here.”

CNN host Carol Costello wisely stayed out of this one.