Federal agents detained a young Argentinian immigrant just minutes after she criticized U.S. deportation policies at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 22-year-old Daniela Vargas Wednesday as a friend was driving her home from the news conference, hosted by local immigration lawyers, churches and advocacy groups. At the event, she spoke about how agents had already come out to her family home on February 15, when they detained her father and brother.
According to ICE, agents did not take Daniela Vargas into custody last month because she told them she was covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. But the agency later determined Vargas’s DACA status was no longer current.
Vargas’s lawyers say financial constraints delayed their client’s application to renew her DACA status. But they say Vargas has been in the U.S. since her parents brought her here from Argentina at the age of 7.
“This is her culture,” said immigration attorney Abigail Peterson. “This is where her family is. This is where her friends are. This is the life that she knows. And she told me when I met with her that she would like the opportunity to go in the military if that becomes an option for DACA. I mean, she is someone who has a love for this country.”
Peterson said DACA recipients, undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as minors, do not represent a high risk group that law enforcement should be targeting. She also expressed concern about the timing of Vargas’s arrest.
“Two weeks later, after she’s been in the media quite a bit, for them to now arrest her raises questions as to the incentive behind it,” Peterson said.
“Every day, as part of routine targeted enforcement operations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations teams arrest criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of our nation’s immigration laws,” ICE Public Affairs Officer Thomas Byrd explained in a written statement. “ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately.”
Vargas remains in federal custody as she awaits a hearing before an immigration judge. Jordan Sanders, a friend who was with Vargas at the time of her arrest, expressed disbelief.
“She has no criminal history,” Sanders said. “She's great. I just don’t understand why it's happening to her.”
Fox News’ Willie Inman and Chip Bell contributed to this report.