Lawyers for Daniela Vargas, the DACA recipient who was detained Wednesday, formally requested Friday to suspend her deportation after they were informed that Vargas would be expelled from the country without a court hearing.
Vargas, 22, was detained Wednesday after she spoke about her fears of deportation during a press conference on the steps of City Hall in Jackson, Mississippi. She told the story of her father and brother, who were picked up in their home during a targeted operation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in February.
On Friday lawyers asked ICE to halt Vargas’ deportation proceedings while the government processes her Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) permit, which would allow her to stay in the country temporarily for a two-year period.
"Today we are requesting a stay of removal to give sufficient time for the renewal DACA application to be adjudicated by USCIS," attorneys Abby Peterson and Nathan Elmore, of the firm Elmore & Peterson, wrote in a statement.
But according to authorities, Vargas is being processed because she overstayed her visit through a visa waiver program, which means she is not entitled to a hearing.
According to the young woman’s lawyer, Vargas came to the United States in 2002 with her family from Argentina with visitor visas (category B1/B2) under the Visa Waiver Program.
The program allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business (B1/B2) without a long-term visa. It was established in 1986 with the aim of removing unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulating the tourism industry and allowing the State Department to focus its consular resources on other areas.
When someone enters the country under the waiver program, they can stay for a maximum of 90 days and can't switch to another visa, unless they return to their country of origin and initiate a new process at the U.S. embassy. When they enter the United States, they waive the right to contest or appeal the decision of an immigration officer to remove them from the country, unless they are an asylum seeker.
Vargas was granted DACA in December 2012, and then again in November 2014. Her latest DACA status had expired in November 2016, and she applied to renew it mid-February, after she came up with the $495 needed for the application fee.
DACA renewals can take months to be processed. Immigration officials recommend applying for renewal up to 150 days before a permit expires, or risk losing protection from deportation until the permit is renewed.
“She already had a deportation order and was not protected by DACA," said Lilia Velásquez, an associate professor of law at the University of California, San Diego. "When a dreamer loses DACA they lose protection.”
On Wednesday, agents stopped the car Vargas was riding in, handcuffed her and eventually sent her to a detention center in Louisiana.
"We left to get some lunch when two cars pulled up behind us," said Vargas' friend, Jordan Sanders. "(The agents) rushed out, opened the door and basically said 'You know why we're here, you know who we are,' and put her in cuffs. Her mouth was open, gaping. It was really scary."
ICE agents confirmed Wednesday that Vargas’ detention was a “targeted enforcement action,” and that she was not detained as part of a raid.
Vargas’ brother and father were detained February 15 in the family’s home. She was handcuffed that day by the agents, according to media reports, but they eventually let her go due to her DACA status.
Other dreamers whose permits are up for renewal should be vigilant, according to lawyers contacted by Univision. These lawyers recommend the following:
- Dreamers protected by DACA should renew in time to protect them from deportation.
- Submit applications at least 150 days in advance.
- If you have a criminal record or have questions about your application, talk to a lawyer before contacting USCIS.
- Do not forget that if you change your address, you have 10 days to tell USCIS your new address.