When Daniela Vargas was arrested in her car after a press conference, a curious thing happened. She was driving with her girlfriend when she was stopped. These were not local police, but unmarked Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) cars.
I won’t go into the details of the case, or what I think was the real reason she is being detained. Daniela was leaving from a press conference in Jackson Mississippi. She spoke about living as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S.
After her arrest, a spokesman for ICE said that Vargas would go through court proceedings. This seemed very standard boilerplate response. I assume it is the standard response from ICE spokesman in cases like this.
Detainees are usually taken before an immigration judge. The court would determine if she is eligible for any kind of relief, from deportation.
LOW PRIORITY UNDER OBAMA
What happened next was not standard. Under the Obama administration, visa overstayers were considered a low priority. If a visa overstayer had not committed any crimes and she would have probably been released. Based on the Morton Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion memo, I say probably. Many low priority undocumented immigrants were detained during Obama’s tenure.
Her lawyer Abigail Peterson said, “They don’t plan on giving her a hearing with an immigration judge, and so she will be prepared for removal, so they’ll prepare travel documents and set up a flight plan.”
The ICE notice that a Daniela had been admitted under the VWP program, gives up the right to see a judge. They are deported. No hearing or pleading your case to a judge.
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program which allows citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa. Argentina at the time Daniela was admitted was one of those countries.
Most visitors who come to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program leave. According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 99% in fiscal year (FY) 2015.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The United Stares spends a lot of resources to deport unlawful residents. In the past, visa overstays were often ignored. The Trump administration wants to increase deportations, which takes time and resources. A class of undocumented immigrants that can be deported without a hearing at is a piece of “Low hanging fruit”.
For Visa Waiver Program countries, the FY 2015 overstay rate is 0.65 percent of the 20,974,390 entries. That means that there are 136,333 targets for quick, efficient, and cheap deportation.