On Wednesday, Daniela Vargas, who has lived in the United States since she was seven, spoke at a press conference in Jackson, Mississippi, about her father and brother's recent deportation. As she was being driven away from the press conference, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained the 22-year-old undocumented immigrant, according to the local Clarion-Ledger.
In February, ICE agents had detained her father and brother, while Vargas hid in a closet for hours.Agents briefly handcuffed her after they found her hiding, but according to the Huffington Post, she then was released "as local news reporters arrived."
"I couldn't even breathe, honestly," Vargas later told the Clarion-Ledger. "I just watched them handcuff my dad and take them. I was scared for my life. I didn't know. I didn't know anything. I called my mom and I just let out a cry. I didn't even get to see my brother leave; I think that was the harshest thing for me."
Since she was seven when her parents brought her to the US (they overstayed their visas), Vargas is eligible to remain in the country under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that grants relief to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. DACA beneficiaries, known as DREAMers, are required to reapply for the program every two years—and she had sent in her DACA renewal application late, apparently because she had difficulty getting together the $495 fee. After her brother and father were apprehended, Vargas said she was going into hiding, but reemerged Wednesday to speak at a press conference hosted by the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance to raise awareness about those affected by deportation.
"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," Daniela Vargas said shortly before she was apprehended by ICE officers.
Abby Peterson, her attorney, speculated that Vargas's arrest "could be retaliation" for the media attention her case had received.
"They had been reading about her in the news, they had seen her at this press conference… [maybe] they didn't want to hear it anymore. Maybe I'm mistaken on that, but common sense would certainly imply that's what happened," Peterson said.
Vargas is currently in ICE detention, without bond.
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