22-year-old amnesty advocate Daniela Vargas was arrested yesterday after speaking about the benefits of DACA at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was established during the Obama administration. Recipients whose parents arrived to the United States illegally are granted safeguards against arrest and deportation when paying a $495 fee every two years.
Miss Vargas, a native of Argentina, was one of those DACA recipients, also known as a DREAMer (in reference to the DREAM Act — Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors). Her parents arrived to the United States illegally when she was only 7 years old and she considers herself an American.
On February 15, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel entered the home of Vargas and arrested her brother and father for being illegal immigrants. However, Daniela Vargas was not arrested at the time because she claimed to be protected under DACA.
Upon further investigation by ICE, they determined that Miss Vargas was not protected under the program. Citing financial difficulties, Miss Vargas claims she didn't have $495 to pay the renewal fee in November, but states she did pay eventually.
The Department of Homeland Security, ICE's parent, claims they do not target those who are legally allowed amnesty under DACA, but crack down on those that do not conform to the rules such as those who violate proper renewal procedures or being convicted of a crime, actions that will void protection.
Miss Vargas had no criminal record.
Uncertain about what the future may hold, amnesty advocates worry how long DACA will last or how it will be weakened for undocumented immigrants under President Trump.