Update [3/3/17, 11:51 a.m.]: Peterson told the Huffington Post that ICE agents will pursue immediate deportation without a court hearing or bond because Vargas entered the country through the visa-waiver program, therefore she has no right to a hearing unless she’s seeking asylum. Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told the Post in a statement that “ICE’s assertion that [Vargas’s] detention is ‘routine’ is absurd and seems anything but.”
On Wednesday, 22-year-old Daniela Vargas spoke at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi, about her father and brother, who’d been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials two weeks prior. She and her family had arrived in the United States as undocumented immigrants from Argentina when she was 7, but Vargas was granted permission to live and work in the U.S. thanks to President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“The path to citizenship is necessary for DACA recipients but also for the other 11 million undocumented people with dreams,” she said. “Today, my father and brother await deportation while I continue to fight this battle as a Dreamer to help contribute to this country, which I feel that is very much my country.”
Shortly after speaking to media, Vargas was arrested, too. According to Abby Peterson, Vargas’ attorney, her DACA status — which needs to be renewed every two years — had expired in November, and she couldn’t afford to pay the $495 renewal fee until February. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recommends that DACA recipients apply for a renewal between 150 and 120 days before their status expires.
“It could be retaliation,” Peterson told the Huffington Post. “They had been reading about her in the news, they had seen her at this press conference … [maybe] they didn’t want to hear it anymore. Maybe I’m mistaken on that, but common sense would certainly imply that’s what happened.” According to Peterson, Vargas has no criminal record.
Under Obama, ICE prioritized deporting undocumented immigrants who committed crimes, but in February Trump’s administration issued guidelines saying everyone in the country illegally should be targeted — with the exception of DACA recipients. Last month, President Trump said he’d deal with DACA recipients “with heart.” “To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids,” he said. He went on, “In some of the cases … they’re gang members and they’re drug members, too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids — I would say mostly — they were brought in here in such a way. It’s a very, very tough subject.”