A 22-year-old woman in Mississippi is in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody after she spoke during an immigration news conference. The woman had entered the country illegally at the age of seven.
Daniela Vargas was arrested Wednesday morning shortly after she gave a speech at a conference about immigration where she expressed living in fear of deportation.
Vargas explained that her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status had expired several months ago but that she was in the process of renewing it. She had been in hiding after her father and brother were detained by ICE agents in February, but briefly came out to speak at a news conference in downtown Jackson, Mississippi, the Clarion Ledger reported.
She left the press conference in a friend’s car, but the two were detained on a nearby freeway, the Associated Press reported. Agents allegedly told Vargas, “You know who we are, you know what we’re here for.“
DACA recipients, often called ‘dreamers,’ have to reapply every two years as per the program’s requirements. Vargas’ status in the DACA program had expired in November, but the $495 cost of application prevented her from reapplying until mid-February, according to the AP.
Her attorney, Abby Peterson, claims that it is unusual for someone with a pending immigration status to be detained. Nevertheless, she was taken into custody and her friend was released.
“Why they would move forward the way they have is, honestly, mind-boggling,” she said.
What happens next remains to be seen. While she had received protection in the visa-waiver program in 2012 and 2014, her participation in the program may result in her being processed for deportation without a hearing, according to Peterson.
Vargas had spoken at a press conference along with a coalition of immigrants rights groups and religious figures.
“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 is very much my country,” she said.
“A path for citizenship is necessary for DACA recipients but also for the other 11 million undocumented people with dreams,” she said.
Vargas was brought to the US from Argentina when she was 7 years old. She went on to graduate from high school in Mississippi and attended community college before starting at the University of Southern Mississippi with aspirations of being a math professor.