This post was written by Connor Balough
JACKSON, Miss. — A woman who identified herself as a DREAMer was arrested after speaking at an immigration press conference in Jackson, Mississippi, CBS affiliate WJTV reports.
The arrest came amid a string of immigration raids and a lack of clarity about the scope of the Trump administration’s plans for deportations.
Daniela Vargas was taken into custody on Wednesday, according to attorneys Ramiro Orozco and Abby Peterson and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
At the press conference, members of the metro area’s Latino community spoke about recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and President Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress. Abby Peterson, an attorney for Vargas, said that Vargas spoke about her life story.
CBS affiliate WJTV reports that she discussed recent events involving her family. Her brother and father were arrested on February 15 after ICE agents came to their home, according to the station.
“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 very much feel is my country,” Vargas said, WJTV reported.
Vargas left Wednesday’s event in a friend’s car, Peterson said. They were pulled over minutes later by two ICE vehicles. Approximately four agents approached the vehicle and took Vargas into custody, according to Peterson.
Peterson has not seen nor spoken to her client, but has been told by ICE that Vargas is being held without bond and is being processed as a visa overstay.
ICE, the attorney was told, is aware of Vargas’ pending DACA application.
DACA protects immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents when they were young children. Under the action, they are given temporary legal status that they must renew every two years.
Vargas, 22, came to the U.S. from Argentina when she was seven years old, according to Peterson. She applied for, and was granted, DACA status in 2012. She renewed it in 2014. Her DACA status expired on Nov. 11 last year. She reapplied in February and as of February 10, her application was pending with USCIS, according to Peterson.
Vargas has not been back to Argentina since she arrived in the U.S. 15 years ago. Peterson said Vargas has no criminal record aside from minor traffic violations and driving without insurance. She has no unpaid tickets.
In a statement later on Wednesday, ICE confirmed Vargas’ March 1 arrest, describing her as “an unlawfully present Argentinian citizen.” ICE said that she was taken into custody “during a targeted immigration enforcement action” in Jackson.
“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’s statement said. “ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately.”
ICE said that Vargas “was previously encountered” at her home on February 15. ICE said that at that time, it “exercised discretion to not take her into custody due to her claim that she had DACA.”
“Subsequent to this encounter, ICE verified that Ms. Vargas does not currently have approved DACA status,” ICE said.
A federal immigration judge will now determine Vargas’s custody status and decide whether or not she is eligible for immigration relief, according to ICE.
“ICE will await the outcome of these proceedings before a federal immigration judge before taking further action,” ICE said in its statement.
The National Immigration Law Center called news about Vargas’ detention “troubling.”
Some Democrats spoke out about the case.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said he’s in touch with the Department of Homeland Security for more information.
“Disturbing that ICE may have followed her from an immigration press conference,” he tweeted.
Another DREAMer, Daniel Ramirez Medina, was arrested by immigration agents last month. A federal magistrate in Seattle declined to release him despite his participation in the federal program to protect those brought to the U.S. illegally.
Josue Romero, who is covered under DACA, was arrested, too — taken into custody on Valentine’s Day a Class B misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession on in San Antonio, CBS affiliate KENS reported. While he was at a county jail, he was handed over to federal immigration officials, the station reported.
President Trump has offered mixed messages about his policies on immigration issues — advocating a need for immigration enforcement, boasting about deportations of criminals and also expressing sympathy for those covered by DACA.
At a mid-February press conference, he was asked about his plans regarding the DACA program.
“We’re gonna show great heart, DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you,” Mr. Trump said. “To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids.”
“In many cases, not in all cases. And some of the cases, having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely, incredible kids, I would say mostly. They were brought here in such a way — it’s a very — it’s a very, very tough subject,” he said.
Days earlier, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said while he was at the border in San Diego that the people who ICE apprehends are “people who are illegal and then some.”
In his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said his administration “has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security.”
“We want all Americans to succeed — but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders,” he said.
“For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border … As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised,” he said.