Wall Street Journal
By Alejandro Lazo
March 2, 2017
A 22-year-old undocumented immigrant whose protection under an Obama administration program had lapsed has been placed into deportation proceedings, her attorney said Thursday.
Daniela Vargas was detained by immigration officials Wednesday after voicing her fear of deportation at a press conference.
Ms. Vargas, who came to the U.S. from Argentina when she was 7 years old, was picked up by agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as she and a friend drove away from the Wednesday news conference in Jackson, Miss., said her lawyer, Abigail Peterson.
She was placed in deportation proceedings that will not include a hearing, Ms. Peterson said authorities told her Thursday morning. Ms Vargas could be deported in a matter of weeks, her attorney said, adding that she is working on an emergency stay.
A spokeswoman for ICE declined to comment on Thursday, saying the agency needed a signed privacy waiver in order to provide specific information about the case.
Earlier, Thomas Byrd, a spokesman for ICE, said in a statement provided to The Wall Street Journal by Ms. Vargas’s attorney Wednesday that Ms. Vargas was taken into custody “during a targeted immigration enforcement action.” The statement said ICE conducts “routine targeted enforcement operations” every day and “does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately.”
The news conference was organized by attorneys, church groups and the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance to bring attention to recent immigration raids in the region, said Patricia Ice, an attorney with the immigrant-rights group.
ICE enforcement actions under the Trump administration have stoked fears in immigrant communities after large numbers of coordinated arrests across the country in recent weeks.
Agency officials have said they are targeting undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes including assault, murder and drug trafficking. But the agency also acknowledged picking up some immigrants they encountered during those raids who have violated federal immigration law, but not committed other crimes.
Ms. Vargas’s father and brother were detained by immigration officials who arrested them outside the family home last month. But Ms. Vargas herself wasn’t arrested at the time, her lawyer said.
Ms. Peterson said she had been working with Ms. Vargas on reapplying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that protects young undocumented adults brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation and gives them work authorization.
Since DACA was introduced in 2012, about 750,000 people have benefited from the program. President Donald Trump during his campaign said he would rescind the program, but has since said he would seek a more favorable solution for its beneficiaries, who are known as “Dreamers.”
The case of another detained DACA recipient is being watched closely as an early test of how the Trump administration will treat program beneficiaries.
The arrest of Ms. Vargas indicates that the Trump administration is targeting more than just violent criminals, Ms. Peterson said. Ms. Vargas had attended school and was working to support her family, her lawyer said.
She had let her DACA status lapse because she had trouble paying the $495 renewal fee, her lawyer said.
“We no longer have a priority system,” Ms. Peterson said. “I don’t think it is accurate to say that our priority is to deport criminal aliens, when quite clearly it is their priority to deport whomever they can get hold of, and it is discouraging to think that, because the people who are the most easily to get a hold of are the most law-abiding people, such as Daniela.”
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat, tweeted that he had contacted the Department of Homeland Security about the case.
“Disturbing that ICE may have followed her from an immigration press conference,” he wrote.
Agents detained Ms. Vargas’s father, Daniel Vargas, 55, and her brother, Alan Vargas, 26, outside their Jackson home on Feb. 15. ICE agents also encountered Ms. Vargas at that time, but didn’t take her into custody when she told them she had DACA protection, though her status was pending at the time.
ICE agents executed a search warrant for her brother at their home and found a gun, Ms. Peterson said, who said she didn’t know the status of Ms. Vargas’s relatives.
Ms. Vargas came to the U.S. from Argentina in 2001, when the South American country had a visa-waiver program with the U.S. She illegally overstayed. She qualified for DACA in 2012 and renewed her status two years later, but it expired in November 2016. She filed for a renewal on Feb. 10, Ms. Peterson said.
Ms. Vargas had completed two years at community college and had attended a four-year university in the area, but stopped attending to work and help support her family, Ms. Peterson said.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com