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Dreamer Daniela Vargas Released By Immigration Officials


Now an update on the case of Daniela Vargas. She's the 22-year-old who was detained by immigration officials March 1 after speaking out about her family's immigration detention under the Trump administration. Last Friday, Vargas was released, and she's now back home in Mississippi. So we've reached out once again to her lawyer, Abigail Peterson. Welcome back to the program.

ABIGAIL PETERSON: Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: When your client Daniela was detained, her status had lapsed under the program protecting people who came to the country when they were kids. That's DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Do we know why she was released on Friday?

PETERSON: They haven't stated specifically the reasons for her release, but the assumption is, based on the filings that we made, that it was a prosecutorial discretion decision. So they weighed the pros and cons of release and determined that the best thing to do would be to release her under an order of supervision. That has not been specifically verified by ICE, but based on our practices in the past, that would be my assumption. I do think that the public pressure from so many supporters had a lot to do with it.

SHAPIRO: What do you think this experience tells us about the way Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, is enforcing these rules under President Trump?

PETERSON: Well, it says a lot about their freedom to do what they want. So I'm glad that they made the decision to release her. I think that that was the right decision, and she should have never been detained in the first place. But it does raise a lot of questions as to, are their priorities anymore? Or is it just a matter of, this person's come across our radar, and so we're going to take some type of action against them?

So the concern is of course, through these DHS memos that have been put out, that there are no priorities anymore. And so now it seems to be almost a free-for-all in terms of people that are here undocumented or a lapse in status regardless of any pending applications they may have.

SHAPIRO: You say it seems like a free-for-all, but at the same time, it doesn't seem like a coincidence that she was picked up just after she spoke out publicly about the detention of her father and her brother.

PETERSON: No, I agree. It doesn't seem like just a coincidence. There were too many dots to easily connect in that one. And that was the point of filings that we've made in federal court - is to say that we believe that her First Amendment rights were violated and that the apprehension and detention of her was unlawful.

SHAPIRO: I know you've decided not to make her available for this interview today. Does that reflect a sense of concern that she could be picked up again if she keeps speaking out?

PETERSON: That's exactly what it reflects, yes. There's a lot of attorneys involved in this, and then there's a lot of concern from not just us but from her as well in terms of what's the smartest and what's the safest decision moving forward. And we don't want to jeopardize anything while this is still pending in courts and while decisions are still left with DHS. And so maybe in the future, we'll - she'll be able to feel comfortable going out and speaking publicly, but for now, this is the decision that we've made.

SHAPIRO: Does she now feel like the kind of shadow hanging over her head has been lifted, or is there still this ominous threat looming?

PETERSON: I think that she felt better prior to speaking to counsel about this because we had to explain the situation to her so that she understood that, yes, while you're out, you still have this administrative removal order that's hanging over your head. And that's still what we're fighting for, so what we're asking the court to do is to ultimately rescind the removal order in her case.

SHAPIRO: That's Abigail Peterson, lawyer for Daniela Vargas who came to the U.S. from Argentina when she was 7. Thanks very much for speaking with us.

PETERSON: Thank you. I appreciate it.


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