The wrong type of deportation

Even hardliners on immigration cannot believe that Daniela Vargas is the type of undocumented worker that our nation needs to deport.

Yet, that is what could befall Vargas, who was picked up last week by U.S. immigration authorities within minutes after she appeared at a Jackson rally where she criticized President Trump’s immigration policy.

Perhaps Vargas felt free to speak, even though she had technically overstayed her visa, because immigration officials didn’t pick her up when they detained her father and brother last month. Or perhaps she took Trump at his word that he was really only trying to deport “bad dudes,” illegal immigrants who were dealing drugs, terrorizing neighborhoods or committing other crimes, not those who were trying to assimilate in this country and contribute to it.

Vargas is precisely the type of immigrant America needs, and for whom it would behoove the nation to come up with an avenue toward permanent legal status.

Now 22, Vargas came to the United States from Argentina when she was seven, accompanying her parents, who were drawn by the Mississippi poultry industry’s need for workers. The family settled in Morton, where Vargas was a high-school honor student, played trumpet in the band and was popular with her American classmates. She went to the University of Southern Mississippi but had to leave school and go to work because of the family’s modest finances. At the time of her detention, she was working two jobs, hoping to save enough money to go back to school, with the dream of becoming a math professor and a soccer mom.

Twice, she met the Obama administration’s criteria that protected her from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She met all the criteria to get a third two-year exemption except she didn’t have the $495 renewal fee when it came up in November. By February, according to Vargas’ attorney, the young woman had the money and reapplied, and was waiting for a decision when she got picked up.

Besides her legal counsel, she has American friends and neighbors taking up her case, as well as 2nd District Rep. Bennie Thompson.

Hopefully, their entreaties — and some compassion from immigration officials — will prevail.

Because the details of Vargas’ case have been well-publicized, it’s easy to see how it would be wrong to send her away from a country that is more her home now than the one in which she was born. How many more of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants could make just as compelling a case if their situation received as much attention as has Vargas’?

Trump was elected in part on his promise to get tougher on immigration. Keeping that promise, though, should not include upending the lives of immigrants who have been in this country for years, who work hard and pay taxes, but who don’t have the right papers to stay.

To ship them away would be heartless and rob our nation of a valuable resource.


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