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Removal by retribution?

At a March 1 press conference in Jackson Mississippi, Daniela Vargas, a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant, was speaking out against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the agency’s recent arrests of immigrants, including her father and brother.

It wasn’t the first time Vargas spoke of her fear of the agency’s actions. The Argentina native publicly criticized ICE in the short time since two of her family members were arrested.

Soon after leaving the press conference, Vargas herself was arrested by ICE. The agency wants to now remove her without a hearing.

Two weeks earlier, agents took her father and brother into custody. However, they declined to take her into custody because of her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) benefit.

Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center and the law office of civil rights attorney William Most have joined with Mississippi immigration law firm Elmore & Peterson in representing Vargas. They claim that agents targeted her for a retaliatory removal and violated her First Amendment rights.

Their petition states that ICE knew of her expired DACA status at the time and that Vargas was being given a “hall pass.” ICE claims that Vargas told them she had DACA. The agents later verified that her status was no longer valid.

Following their discovery, that hall pass was apparently revoked.

Vargas’ DACA did expire in November 2016 over her inability to pay the $465 renewal fee. She did reapply on February 10 and paid the fee that actually increased by $30. The application is still pending.

Vargas arrived in the U.S. from Argentina as a child through the Visa Waiver Program. The program allowed her to enter the U.S. without a visa on the condition that she waives the right to contest her removal on any grounds except asylum.

She was seven at the time. Whether she had the ability to make that decision at the time is currently part of her deportation debate.

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