The tactic of immigrant-rights groups of putting illegal aliens in front of the camera to tell heartbreaking tales of their fears of deportation backfired Wednesday when Immigration and Customs Enforcement promptly detained a woman who spoke at a Jackson, Mississippi, news conference.
The event, conducted by Jackson immigration attorneys, local churches and the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance followed last week’s ICE raids that netted over 50 illegal aliens working at local Asian restaurants. The group was attempting to bring media attention to families of those affected by the recent crackdowns, including deportation, reported the Clarion Ledger.
Daniela Vargas’ father and brother were detained outside their home last month, and the 22-year-old woman was herself briefly held in custody after agents found her hiding in a closet before being released.
The family came to the U.S. when Vargas was seven and never went back. Their visa expired.
“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,” she told the crowd. “Now, I’m not so sure my dream will continue to develop.”
Thomas Byrd, ICE public affairs officer, told the Clarion Ledger Daniel and Alan Vargas were detained as routine enforcement.
“Every day, as part of routine targeted enforcement operations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Fugitive Operations teams arrest criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of our nation’s immigration laws,” Byrd said. “ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately.”
Vargas’ current immigration status is currently under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, but she failed to renew her biennial deferral before it expired. According to her lawyer, a renewal application has been filed and is pending.
But when she left the news conference with a friend, their car was pulled over by ICE agents, and she was charged with a “visa overstay.” Vargas had been in hiding after her father and brother’s arrest and came out to speak at the news conference. She had earlier told the Clarion-Ledger of her plan to leave the state. It’s unclear if the prospect of her going into hiding again motivated ICE to act when it did.
Because Vargas came to the U.S. on a visa-waiver program, she can be processed by ICE without a hearing. She is currently in detention and held without bail.
The agents who took Vargas into custody reportedly told her, “You know who we are, you know what we’re here for.”