Becca Heller attending a fund-raiser in New York last month. (photo: Hilary Swift / The New York Times)
The International Refuge Assistance Project marshalls thousands of pro-bono lawyers in defense of immigrants’ rights.
By Miriam Jordan / The New York Times
May 7, 2017
“[After Mr. Trump’s election,] I started thinking increasingly in military terms. . . . ‘What does it mean that we have an army of 2,000 lawyers who want to do stuff for refugees? What can we do with that?’”
— Becca Heller, a founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project
Tipped off by her Washington sources that an executive order blocking refugees was coming, Becca Heller fired off messages to her vast network of law students and pro bono lawyers:
Tell any clients who already have visas to board a plane for the United States. Get ready for the possibility that they will be detained upon landing.
“URGENT-Protect refugees arriving at airports,” she wrote in an email blast on Jan. 25.
So when President Trump signed the order two days later, and thousands of lawyers flocked to airports in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere, the public saw not so much a spontaneous reaction as the meticulous preparation of a loud, pugnacious 35-year-old lawyer who is now in the middle of one of Mr. Trump’s biggest policy fights.
On Monday, the nonprofit that Ms. Heller began eight years ago as a student organization at Yale Law School, and that has helped more than 3,000 refugees resettle in the United States, will try to continue its winning streak against the Trump administration in a federal appellate courtroom in Virginia. The government is trying to overturn a lower-court victory by the organization that blocked the second version of Mr. Trump’s travel ban, calling it an unconstitutional discrimination against Muslims.
Daniela Vargas, 22, was released Friday from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. She had been detained after speaking out at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi. (photo: Elijah Baylis / The Clarion-Ledger)
Daniela Vargas talks about her life before being detained by ICE agents, what life what like in detention and what her hopes are for the future.
By Sarah Fowler / The Clarion-Ledger
March 13, 2017
“We’re all here for the same reason, even Americans.America is the land of the free. Who wouldn’t want to be here?”
— Daniela Vargas
For 10 days, Daniela Vargas existed in a world closed off from the rest of society.
She didn’t eat, didn’t sleep. She cried for the first 48 hours.
She was alive but she wasn’t living. Her new reality was a far cry from the life she knew. The life she knew before immigration agents took her into custody.
But Vargas did what she has been doing since she was a 7-year-old immigrant who didn’t speak the same language as the other first-graders. She adapted.
Diana Hodges places a sticky note that calls for freeing 22-year old Daniela Vargas, a Argentine native who has lived in the United States since she was seven years old, on the office doors of lawmakers at the Capitol. (photo: Rogelio V. Solis / AP)
By Sarah Smith / AP via The Seattle Times
February 3, 2017
“Immigrants like Ms. Vargas just want a better life for themselves and their families and are true believers in the American dream — they should not be pushed further into the shadows.”
— Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi
Before she was arrested following an immigration protest, Daniela Vargas dreamed of earning her college degree in Mississippi, then becoming a math professor and soccer mom, driving three kids around in an SUV.
Now the 22-year-old friends describe as all-American girl may be deported without a hearing to Argentina, a country she hasn’t seen since she was 7, when her parents fled a collapsing economy and violated a visa waiver program to find work in the United States.
Her attorneys said they filed a motion Friday with the Department of Homeland Security to allow Vargas, now detained in Louisiana, to remain in the U.S. until they can make her case before a judge. Meanwhile, her friends canvassed the state Capitol building, leaving notes seeking help from lawmakers.
(photo: Daniel Ramirez Medina / via AP)
Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year-old Mexican, was detained on Feb 10 by federal agents who initially came to arrest his father.
By Gene Johnson / AP
February 4, 2017
“On behalf of Mexican nationals brought to the United States as young children by their parents, the Governors of Mexico would like to express our support and admiration for the daily struggle they endure in their effort to succeed, attain an education and shape their future and their communities’ future through hard work.”
The governors of Mexico have written to an American court to express support for a Seattle-area man who has been detained for weeks despite his participation in a federal program to protect people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
The National Conference of Governors of Mexico sent the letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge James Donohue, who is overseeing the case of Daniel Ramirez Medina. Ramirez, a 23-year-old Mexican, was arrested February 10 in a Seattle suburb by immigration agents who initially arrived to detain his father, identified as a previously deported felon.
“On behalf of Mexican nationals brought to the United States as young children by their parents, the Governors of Mexico would like to express our support and admiration for the daily struggle they endure in their effort to succeed, attain an education and shape their future and their communities’ future through hard work,” the letter reads.
(photo: Imani Khayyam / Jackson Free Press)
Daniela Vargas, an aspiring math teacher, was detained after speaking an immigrants’ rights event, as ICE calls arrest “targeted immigration enforcement.”
By Matt Kessler / The Guardian
December 3, 2017
“I don’t understand why they don’t want me. I’m doing the best I can. I mean, I can’t help that I was brought here but I don’t know anything else besides being here and I didn’t realize that until I was in a holding cell last night for five hours. I was brought here. I didn’t choose to be here. And when I was brought here, I had to learn a whole new country and leave behind the one that I did know.”
A 22-year-old who was detained as she was leaving a press conference on immigrants’ rights Wednesday will not get a court hearing before she is deported, her lawyers said.
Daniela Vargas was in the process of renewing her application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama administration program that temporarily protects from deportation undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children. Vargas was an aspiring math teacher who went to college while under the program. And Bill Chandler, an immigrants’ advocate who knew Vargas well, said she had a receipt showing that her application was being processed.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement on Wednesday that the action was part of “targeted immigration enforcement.” On Thursday, the lawyer Nathan Elmore said ICE had indicated it would pursue immediate deportation against Vargas without allowing her to first have a court hearing. Vargas’s lawyers have filed a petition challenging ICE’s decision.
“ICE is supposed to target undocumented immigrants who commit crimes,” said Elmore. “Convicted criminals. Daniela doesn’t fit into any of these categories. Is this where you want your tax dollars directed?”