U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents seized Daniela Vargas' father and brother in Jackson, Mississippi, on Feb. 15, as part of President Trump's crackdown on undocumented immigrants, and Vargas spoke about her family's detention at a news conference on Wednesday; ICE detained her right after the news conference. Vargas, who was brought to the U.S. from Argentina at age 7, was granted temporary permission to work and protection from deportation under former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but her DACA status lapsed in November and she didn't get her application for renewal in until Feb. 10, because she was saving up the $495 application fee.
On Wednesday, ICE said that Vargas would not be deported without a court proceeding to determine if she was eligible for reprieve, but her lawyer, Abby Peterson, said on Thursday that ICE now says it will deport her without any hearing, because she entered the U.S. through a visa waiver program 15 years ago, when Argentina was one of the countries where people could visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.
Trump has said repeatedly that his immigration policy is aimed at removing the "bad hombres," — violent felons, drug traffickers — but at least a quarter of the undocumented immigrants detained so far have no criminal record. In Austin, for example, federal officials confirmed to the Austin American-Statesman that 28 of the 51 immigrants arrested in Operation Cross Check had no criminal histories. And since Trump has left DACA in place, Vargas' case has drawn the attention of some lawmakers. "ICE's assertion that her detention is 'routine' is absurd and seems anything but," said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the top Democrat on the House Committee on Homeland Security. "Those like Ms. Vargas just want a better life for themselves and their families."