Daniela Vargas, a native of Argentina who was detained by U.S. immigration agents after she publicly criticized Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, was released Friday, said Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center.
“After a long nearly two weeks in detention, Daniela Vargas is on her way back to her family and her community in Mississippi,” Tumlin said. “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.”
Details about conditions of Vargas’ release were unclear Friday. An attorney for Vargas, Nathan Elmore. said he was concerned a deportation order against Vargas has not been rescinded. She’d been held at an ICE detention center in Louisiana.
“We have not seen the order that released her, so there are technical aspects that cause doubts prior to seeing that,” Elmore said.
Vargas, 22, qualified for a temporary reprieve from deportation under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but her DACA status expired in November.
She was detained last week after speaking at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi, about the arrests of her father and brother by ICE agents.
Vargas’ attorneys filed a petition this week in federal court asking for her immediate release.
The habeas petition, filed Monday in US District Court in Alexandria, Louisiana, said that “ICE agents arrested and detained Ms. Vargas in retaliation for the exercise of her First Amendment rights,” referring to the news conference at which she spoke.
“Ms. Vargas’ continued detention and inability to contest her detention and removal violate her Fifth and First Amendment rights.”
ICE released a statement last week saying Vargas was arrested during one of its “targeted enforcement” operations.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took Daniela Vargas, 22, an unlawfully present Argentinian citizen, into custody March 1, during a targeted immigration enforcement action in Jackson, Mississippi,” the statement said.
ICE said Thursday on Twitter that “DACA is not a protected legal status, but active DACA recipients are a lower level of enforcement priority.”
The Department of Homeland Security has terminated deferred action for about 1,500 people since 2012, mainly because of criminal activity, ICE tweeted.
Vargas said she came to the United States with her family at age 7 as an undocumented immigrant and later was granted DACA status.
One of her attorneys, Abby Peterson, said Vargas could not immediately afford the minimum $495 renewal application fee after her DACA status expired and she put off the process until last month. The government recommends DACA recipients apply for a renewal between 120 and 150 days before their status expires.
Days after Vargas reapplied, her father and brother were taken into ICE custody at their home, on Feb. 15.