ICE Intimidates Latino Community with Arrest of DACA Recipient Practicing Free Speech

Earlier this week in Jackson, Miss., 22-year-old Dany Vargas stood bravely before reporters to speak about the fear that she and many of her friends and family have of being deported at any moment under a new administration that has targeted the Latino community.

Dany’s fears are real. After all, it was just two weeks ago that she watched her father get arrested outside their home. She literally hid inside her bedroom closet for fear that she too could be deported. Dany’s father and her brother were arrested, detained, and are currently awaiting deportation. Despite her fears after watching her family members taken away, Dany spoke eloquently about being a DREAMer and how much she wants to contribute to her country, which she has called home since she was seven years old.

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As a DACA recipient, Dany has been able to work as a store manager, and has dreams of being a math teacher. But, her DACA status lapsed after she was unable to pay the $500 fee that is required every two years to maintain the status. However, Dany did save up the money she needed, and last month got her paperwork in order so that she could begin the renewal process. Since her application is pending, what happened next was shocking.

Minutes after speaking to reporters outside Jackson City Hall, ICE officials followed Dany and her friend’s car and pulled them over. According to Univision, Dany’s friend, Jordan Sanders, said that ICE agents allegedly opened the car door saying “you know who we are and you know why we’re here.” Moments later she was handcuffed and taken into custody. Her attorney told ICE that she had a pending DACA case, but ICE agents claimed that she was listed as a “visa overstay” and would have to be detained.

Outrage over the detention was sparked almost immediately and many question the motives of ICE, pointing to retaliation for her outspokenness about her fear of deportation.

“Deporting a 22-year old DREAMer who goes to school, pays taxes, works to help support her family, and has no criminal background has little to do with keeping America safe,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía. “Daniela Vargas isn’t a threat to our country; she is part of our hope for its future. She is being penalized for having the courage to stand up and speak openly about the plight of immigrant families contributing to this country every day.”

In the wake of her sudden detention, advocates at United We Dream have started a petition to #FreeDany. So far, more than 20,000 signatures have been collected. Add your name and join the chorus of voices demanding that Dany be released.

The chilling effect this action is already having on people cannot be understated. Dany has been made an example simply for having the temerity to speak out against an administration that has targeted her hardworking family.

“For exercising that core American right to freedom of speech, she has been removed from her home and her family,” said Murguía. “This isn’t about justice, it’s about the harassment and intimidation. The president has better uses of ICE than this.”

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