Daniela Vargas, a 22 year old who was arrested by immigration agents two weeks ago in Jackson, Mississippi, has been released from custody, CNN has reported. Vargas was speaking to the media against the surge in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids when she was detained by ICE agents due to a lapsed immigration status. Vargas's parents and brother had also previously been detained by ICE agents, and are awaiting deportation.
"After a long nearly two weeks in detention, Daniela Vargas is on her way back to her family and her community in Mississippi," Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement. "This is a day — at least it is a moment — for celebration in what has been a terrifying set of months for the immigrant community and their families."
Nathan Elmore, an attorney for Vargas, said that it's unclear whether or not her deportation order had been rescinded. Vargas came to the United States from Argentina at age seven, therefore qualifying for a deportation reprieve under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) program. This status expired in November 2016, and Abby Peterson, another lawyer representing Vargas, said the $495 application fee was too expensive for her client until last month, when she reapplied.
The arrest became a flashpoint for immigrant activists everywhere as an example of the punitive immigration enforcement of President Donald Trump's administration. New guidelines have created a much broader definition of "criminal behavior" for undocumented immigrants, making far more liable for deportation. The administration is currently considering a guideline that would separate apprehended mothers from their children, in an effort to "deter" illegal immigration.
During one of her visits, Peterson recorded Vargas discussing her imprisonment. Read her comments below, via The Huffington Post.
"I don’t understand why they don’t want me. I’m doing the best I can. I mean I can’t help that I was brought here but I don’t know anything else besides being here and I didn’t realize that until I was in a holding cell last night for 5 hours. I was brought here. I didn’t choose to be here. And when I was brought here, I had to learn a whole new country and leave behind the one that I did know. And I barely knew that one. I feel, I strongly feel that I belong here and I strongly feel that I should be given a chance to be here and do something good and work in this economy. There’s so much that I can bring to the table, so much, like I can even teach music, I’m an excellent trumpet player you can ask my mom about any of that. I’m great with math, I speak Spanish. You know, there’s a lot of stuff that I can do for this country that they’re not allowing me to do. I’ve even tried to join the military, and I can’t do that. But, I mean that’s not the point, the whole point is that I would do anything for this country."