Federal immigration officials said on Monday that they had decided not to detain a prominent immigrant rights advocate after his arrest in Minnesota last week on a traffic violation because he did not present a risk to public safety.
The immigrants' advocate, Jose Antonio Vargas, was stopped Friday morning on a highway south of Minneapolis because he was driving with headphones on, his lawyers said.
The Minnesota State Police officers arrested him after a check of his driver's license revealed that it had been revoked by the authorities in Washington State, said Debra Schneider, a lawyer for Mr. Vargas.
Mr. Vargas, an immigrant from the Philippines and a former reporter for The Washington Post, has been an activist since he revealed in June 2011 that he had been living in this country illegally for years.
After the traffic stop, he was taken to the Hennepin County jail, where he was questioned by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency known as ICE. He was released Friday afternoon with no immigration charges being filed.
"Mr. Vargas was not arrested by ICE nor did the agency issue a detainer," said Gillian Christensen, an agency spokeswoman. "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."
Agents determined that Mr. Vargas did not fit any of those priority categories for detention, Ms. Schneider said.
Mr. Vargas was driving a rental car on his way to give a lecture at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. He missed the lecture.
Mr. Vargas disclosed his illegal immigration status in a June 2011 article in The New York Times Magazine. In that article, he revealed that he had obtained a driver's license using a false address. Shortly afterward, officials in Washington State revoked his license.
Mr. Vargas will be arraigned in Minneapolis on Oct. 18 on charges of driving without a license, Ms. Schneider said.
Speaking by telephone Monday, Mr. Vargas said he could not comment in detail because the case was still open. "I am grateful to have made it home Friday night," said Mr. Vargas, who lives in New York.
The Obama administration's policy of steering away from detaining illegal immigrants who have not been convicted of crimes has been strongly criticized by Republicans in Congress and by some immigration agents, who say ICE is failing to enforce the law and creating a de facto amnesty.
Rights groups have protested that the administration's enforcement programs still sweep up many immigrants for minor infractions like traffic violations.
In June 2012, Mr. Vargas appeared on the cover of Time magazine with an article about young people living illegally in the United States. The next day, President Obama announced a reprieve from deportation for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants. At 31, Mr. Vargas is too old to qualify for that program.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.