This Is What Trump’s Deportation Campaign Really Looks Like

A woman hospitalized with a brain tumor, a dad dropping his daughter at school, and more.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents make an arrest in Los Angeles in February.Charles Reed/ICE via AP


Since February, dozens of deportation raids have been carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as Donald Trump has kicked his immigration crackdown into high gear. Immigrants—many of whom have lived and worked in the country for decades—have been arrested at home, at work, and at routine check-ins with ICE officials. Some arrests have sparked protests, while others have gone relatively unnoticed.

Here are some of the most outrageous arrests ICE has made so far this year:

The DACA recipient arrested after speaking out against ICE

Twenty-two-year-old Daniela Vargas was arrested by ICE officers in Jackson, Mississippi, earlier this month—shortly after giving a speech in which she publicly criticized ICE for detaining her brother and father. Vargas, who arrived in the United States from Argentina with her family when she was seven, was one of thousands of young immigrants protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was started by President Obama in 2012. (Trump has been reluctant to criticize the program or so-called Dreamers, leading to criticism from immigration hardliners.)

Vargas was granted DACA status in 2014, but her status expired in November. In February, she applied to renew her status, and not long after her father and brother were detained at their home. Weeks later, Vargas spoke out about her relatives’ arrest at a news conference. Shortly afterward, ICE agents pulled over the car Vargas was riding in. “What we know they said is, ‘You know who we are, you know why we’re here,'” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, the director of United We Dream, an immigrants’ rights group. They arrested Vargas. “Because her DACA was expired,” Martinez Rosas said, “ICE agents played a game of ‘gotcha’ with her life.” Vargas was released from ICE custody last Friday, after a week in detention.

The brain tumor patient detained at the hospital

There are several places that immigration officials consider sensitive—schools, churches, hospitals, and ceremonies like funerals and weddings—where they typically refrain from conducting enforcement actions. In the case of Sara Beltrán Hernández, ICE agents skirted this informal policy in late February by arresting her in the Texas hospital where she was receiving treatment for a brain tumor. Beltrán Hernández was transferred to a detention facility in Alvardo, Texas, where she had previously been held after spending 16 months while waiting for a judge to rule on her asylum request. Beltrán Hernández claimed she had fled El Salvador in late 2015 to escape domestic abuse and the gang violence that has devastated the country.

Earlier this month, after a petition from her attorney and a social-media campaign led by Amnesty International, she was granted bond, allowing her to reunite with her family and seek medical attention while her case is resolved.

The transgender woman detained at her domestic-abuse court hearing

Ervin Gonzalez, an undocumented transgender woman from Mexico, was arrested in a courthouse in El Paso, Texas, in mid-February, just minutes after leaving a hearing in her domestic-violence case. Gonzalez, who had filed police reports for three incidents of alleged abuse, had been granted a protective order against her accused abuser. “We were stunned that ICE would go to these lengths for someone that is not a violent criminal,” Jo Anne Bernal, the county attorney, told a local news station after the arrest. “I cannot recall an instance where ICE agents have gone into the domestic-violence court, specifically looking for a victim of domestic violence.” An ICE spokesperson said the agency had been tipped off about the woman’s whereabouts by another law enforcement agency, and that she had already been deported six times. She is currently being held in a local detention facility under a federal ICE detainer.

The father whose arrest was filmed by his sobbing daughter

In another side step of ICE’s sensitive-location policy, immigration officials arrested Rómulo Avelica-González just a block away from his daughter’s school in Los Angeles. Avelica-González and his wife were headed there to drop off their daughter for the day when ICE officials pulled over their car. His 13-year-old daughter, who cried through the ordeal, captured the arrest on video. Avelica-González came to the United States from Mexico in the early 1990s and has since raised four daughters here, all US citizens. He is the sole financial provider for his family, according to his supporters. His family has attained a stay on his deportation from an appeals court.

In a statement, the union that represents teachers in Los Angeles slammed ICE for the arrest, saying it would “lead to students staying home, disrupting their education,” and that children had a right to an education “free from fear and intimidation.” Avelica-González was detained because he had “multiple prior criminal convictions,” ICE officials said, including a DUI from 2009, and an outstanding order of removal from 2011.

The Phoenix mother deported for working illegally

Guadalupe García de Rayos, a 35-year-old mother of two US citizens, was deported in early February. She had been detained during her annual check-in with ICE officials, which she was required to attend because of a years-old conviction for using a fake Social Security number to work. Because her felony conviction was nonviolent, García de Rayos was considered low priority for deportation under the Obama administration. But under ICE’s new prioritization guidelines, García de Rayos’ criminal record made her a priority for deportation. She was taken into custody at her check-in February and deported days later.

The Akron father who was forced to deport himself

Leonardo Valbuena, 43, was arrested at his regular check-in with immigration officials in Akron, Ohio, in February. He had traveled to the United States from Colombia with his wife and two children on a temporary visitor’s visa in 2006 and told local reporters that he had subsequently applied for political asylum. Valbuena, who worked as a carpenter in Cleveland, had been issued a Social Security number for tax purposes, a work permit, and a driver’s license as he awaited a decision—but in the meantime, he claimed, his visa expired. At his check-in in February, Valbuena was arrested and given the option to leave the country voluntarily in exchange for not being criminally prosecuted for overstaying his visa. He was given a few weeks to gather himself to go back to Colombia, and his wife and children decided to leave with him. In an interview with a local news station before he left for Colombia, Valbuena said, “It’s hard to explain how my life changed on that day.”

The pregnant mother of four

Lilian Cardona-Pérez, 33, came to the United States legally from Guatemala in 1997 at age 13. She seured a work permit, has been employed since—currently at a Mexican restaurant and as a housekeeper—and has raised four children with her husband. The couple is expecting a fifth. But earlier this month, Cardona-Pérez attended her regular check-in with ICE officials in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she was told she would be deported in 30 days. Cardona-Pérez’s family has not made public why she is being deported, but they said ICE made an allegation against her that, they claim, is untrue. She has an immigration hearing scheduled this week, but if deported, she’d leave behind her family and be left to raise her fifth child alone. “I have no family there. I have no home,” Cardona-Perez said of Guatemala at a prayer vigil last weekend. “There is no place I could go.”