DREAMer detained by ICE moments after speaking at immigration rally

22-year-old Daniela Vargas faces deportation after speaking out at a Mississippi press conference

By Sophia Tesfaye

Published March 1, 2017 10:30PM (EST)


When U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrived at her Jackson, Mississippi home earlier this month, 22-year-old Daniela Vargas barricaded herself inside a closet as the law enforcement officials searched every inch of her home for four hours. Vargas' father and 26-year-old brother -- both undocumented immigrants from Argentina -- were eventually detained, but she was released after being briefly handcuffed by officers.

On Wednesday, ICE agents finally caught up with Daniela after she came out of hiding to speak at a press conference against the ramped up immigration raids order by President Donald Trump.

The Clarion-Ledger reported that the Vargas had just spoken Wednesday at an immigration press conference in front of Jackson City Hall and was returning home when ICE agents pulled her car over on the freeway.

"You know who we are, you know what we're here for," agents told Vargas, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

“It could be retaliation,” Vargas' lawyer, Abby Peterson, told the Huffington Post Wednesday. “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.”

Vargas, her father, mother and brother came to the United States in 2001 from Cordova, Argentina on a three-month visitor’s visa when she was just 7 years old. Vargas was previously a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) -- often referred to as "Dreamers" -- but her status had recently expired. Under DACA, undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 can receive two-year work authorization permits. Her attorney said Vargas had already filed to renew it when she was arrested Wednesday and did not have a criminal record.

"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," Vargas reportedly said at the press conference before she was arrested herself.

On Feb. 15, Daniela was asleep inside her home when her father and brother were arrested by ICE on their way to work. They were both sent to a detention center in Louisiana, where they now await deportation. Vargas will be sent to the same detention center, according to her attorney.

"They started hollering out my name and they were pointing guns at me," Vargas recalled of the ICE agents who detained her father and brother in an interview with the Clarion-Ledger earlier this month. "It was the most dreadful thing, I never thought that this would happen."

Vargas is at least the second undocumented immigrant who had previously been granted protection from deportation under DACA and detained by ICE since Trump has taken office and issued an executive order cracking down on undocumented immigrants beyond violent criminals. 23-year-old Mexican immigrant and DREAMer Daniel Ramirez was arrested earlier this month when ICE agents entered his home in search of his undocumented father.

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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