Immigration officials detained Daniela Vargas, a 22-year-old immigrant from Argentina, Wednesday in Mississippi — despite her pending renewal application to stay in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to the Hill. She had appeared minutes before at a news conference to speak out against deportations and President Donald Trump's immigration policy.
"It could be retaliation," her lawyer, Abby Peterson, told the Huffington Post. "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 made headlines last month when she hid in a closet from, and then was discovered by, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who arrested her brother and dad for their unauthorized stay in the U.S. Vargas wasn't detained then because of her status through DACA, a policy former President Barack Obama enacted in 2012 that allows people who immigrated as minors to be temporarily exempt from deportation.
Vargas recently applied to extend her DACA eligibility, the Clarion-Ledger reported. She told her story at a Wednesday event in Jackson, explaining to the crowd that she wanted to work in the U.S. as a math teacher.
"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 said, using an acronym for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which failed at a federal level.
The recently sworn-in Trump has called for more deportations and taken a variety of stances on DACA. He vowed initially to undo Obama's executive actions, but Department of Homeland Security memos released last month left DACA in effect. Trump said he would "show great heart" on the subject, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at a Feb. 21 briefing that criminals, not youth, would be "first to go."
"Everyone that is here illegally is subject to removal," Spicer said. "What’s important to note, more than anything, is that this order does not address [DREAMers]."
Vargas and a friend were on their way home Wednesday when they were pulled over. The timing raised questions for people like Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who called the possibility that she was tracked "disturbing," and her attorney.
"Does that mean ICE is following people? Do people always have to be looking over their shoulder, losing sleep, and afraid to go outside their homes?" Peterson told BuzzFeed News.