Daniela Vargas, 22, came to the United States from Argentina with her family in 2001, when she was just seven, and first enrolled in DACA in 2012. Last month, she watched her father and brother be arrested and detained by ICE officials, and on Wednesday she told her story at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi speaking out for immigrants rights. Today, according to her attorney, she is set for immediate deportation despite having lived in the States for the majority of her life.
Univision, Jezebel’s parent company, reports that Vargas was arrested yesterday after speaking at the news conference, and that it appears she was specifically followed and targeted by ICE, who pulled her over as she was leaving. “You know who we are and you know why we’re here,” they said, according to Jordan Sanders, Vargas’s friend who was in the vehicle at the time.
Vargas was then taken to an ICE detention center, where she remains. Her attorney, Abby Peterson, tells Huffington Post that she is being charged as overstaying her visa rather than qualifying under DACA, because she couldn’t afford the $495 it would take to renew her status in November. (Her application was submitted February 10.)
But Abby Peterson, Vargas’ attorney, said ICE agents told her on Thursday that they would instead pursue immediate deportation without a court hearing or bond because Vargas is being processed for overstaying after entering the U.S. through the visa waiver program, which at the time was open to citizens of Argentina. By using that program, her family waived some of their rights, Peterson said.
Peterson argued that the facts of Vargas’ case should be considered, including that the young woman received DACA relief and had reapplied to the program.
“She was 7 years old at the time [she came to the U.S.],” Peterson said. “She didn’t waive those rights, her parents waived those rights. And now she’s an adult trying to assert her own rights.”
Vargas’s story is yet another nightmare scenario amid stringent ICE crackdowns, supposedly targeting Trump’s ballyhooed “criminals” but are instead ripping apart families and demonizing average people simply for their undocumented status. Among DACA recipients, Vargas is not the first to be targeted. Last month in Seattle, for instance, ICE detained Daniel Ramirez Medina despite his DACA qualifications, and allegedly coerced by authorities to make false claims of gang affiliations. (He refused.)
Vargas’s arrest has provoked accusations of retaliation by ICE, punishment for speaking up, according to the Washington Post. Immigrants rights organization United We Dream has created a petition to #freeDany. It reads:
Like many beneficiaries of the DACA program, paying the nearly $500 in fees every two years was hard and her DACA status expired. However, she saved up, got the money together and her renewal application is now in the approval process.
But because of this technicality, ICE tracked her down, and put her into the deportation pipeline.
The petition also says that Vargas hopes to one day become a math teacher.
Correction: A version of this piece misidentified DACA as “a path to citizenship.” It is simply a policy that allows some undocumented people to work in the U.S. Jezebel regrets the error.