A young woman in the process of renewing her legal status to stay in the country has been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Twenty-two-year-old Daniela Vargas had just spoken Wednesday at an immigration press conference in front of Jackson City Hall in Mississippi when, according to her attorney, ICE officials pulled her and a friend over on the freeway as they were driving back. Vargas was detained.
Her attorney, Nathan Elmore, said that Vargas’ earlier Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status had just expired and that his firm had already filed to renew it. DACA immigrants are people who were brought to the country by their parents when they were young children – often referred to as “Dreamers.”
California Senator Kamala Harris tweeted the following of Vargas’ detention:
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) March 1, 2017
Prior to this incident, Vargas’ father and brother were detained by ICE agents outside of their home while she was asleep. According to a report from The Clarion Ledger, Vargas saw her father in handcuffs and was questioned by the agents on her father’s immigration status. She locked the doors and hid in her bedroom closet. Five hours later, the newspaper reported, ICE agents had broken down her door to look for drugs and guns in her home.
“They started hollering out my name and they were pointing guns at me,” Vargas said in The Ledger.
During their search, agents found a handgun, which Vargas claimed was kept for protection. Under the law, possession of a firearm by an undocumented person is considered a felony, according to the newspaper.
“During that time, I couldn’t even breathe,” said Vargas. “I was scared for my life … It was the most dreadful thing, I never thought that this would happen.”
ICE public affairs officer Thomas Byrd said in a statement, “Every day, as part of routine targeted enforcement operations, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Fugitive Operations teams arrest criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of our nation’s immigration laws.”
“ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately,” Byrd reiterated, an assertion the agency has been making more frequently in the wake of increased immigration enforcement operations.
Vargas’ family originally immigrated from Argentina – where they lived in poverty – to the US with a three-month visitor’s visa in 2001. As of Feb. 17, they have been in a detention center in Louisiana.