WJTV
Now playing
03:09
DREAMer detained after giving immigration speech
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Richard Drew/AP
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Now playing
01:17
Trump to migrants: Make your nations great again
Central American immigrants depart ICE custody, pending future immigration court hearings on June 11, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. Thousands of undocumented immigrants continue to cross into the U.S., despite the Trump administration's recent "zero tolerance" approach to immigration policy.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore/Getty Images
Central American immigrants depart ICE custody, pending future immigration court hearings on June 11, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. Thousands of undocumented immigrants continue to cross into the U.S., despite the Trump administration's recent "zero tolerance" approach to immigration policy. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:06
Judge blocks asylum seekers from deportation
Pool
Now playing
01:51
Trump: I prefer shutdown before midterms
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 29:  Demonstrators hold a rally in the Little village neighborhood calling for the elimination of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and an end to family detentions on June 29, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Protests have erupted around the country recently as people voice outrage over the separation and detention of undocumented children and their parents.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 29: Demonstrators hold a rally in the Little village neighborhood calling for the elimination of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and an end to family detentions on June 29, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Protests have erupted around the country recently as people voice outrage over the separation and detention of undocumented children and their parents. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:30
HHS refusing to release family separation stats
Now playing
01:01
Reporter to Sarah Sanders: Why did Trump lie?
Now playing
01:28
Trump: ICE agents are mean but have heart
Pool
Now playing
01:23
Trump: Our facilities better than Obama's
trump king of jordan visit
CNN
trump king of jordan visit
Now playing
01:15
Trump: No regrets signing executive order
Immigrant children walk in a line outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, a former Job Corps site that now houses them, on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/AP
Immigrant children walk in a line outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, a former Job Corps site that now houses them, on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Now playing
01:54
Children in limbo after Trump executive order
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Now playing
02:18
White House chaos over immigration reversal
Watched by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (L) and Vice President Mike Pence, US President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration in the Oval Office of the White House on June 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order aimed at putting an end to the controversial separation of migrant families at the border, reversing a harsh practice that had earned international scorn."It's about keeping families together," Trump said at the signing ceremony. "I did not like the sight of families being separated," he added. (Photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Watched by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (L) and Vice President Mike Pence, US President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration in the Oval Office of the White House on June 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order aimed at putting an end to the controversial separation of migrant families at the border, reversing a harsh practice that had earned international scorn."It's about keeping families together," Trump said at the signing ceremony. "I did not like the sight of families being separated," he added. (Photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:49
What's next after Trump's policy reversal?
Trump meeting 06202018
POOL
Trump meeting 06202018
Now playing
02:33
Trump reverses position on family separations
President Donald Trump signs an executive order to keep families together at the border, but says that the 'zero-tolerance' prosecution policy will continue, during an event in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Standing behind Trump are Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, left, and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Donald Trump signs an executive order to keep families together at the border, but says that the 'zero-tolerance' prosecution policy will continue, during an event in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Standing behind Trump are Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, left, and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Now playing
01:52
Trump signs executive order to end family separations
CNN
Now playing
01:18
Trump: Take children away to prosecute parents
THE PRESIDENT meets with the National Space Council  In-House Pool (Pre-set 9:30AM | Final Gather 11:15AM -- Palm Room Doors)
Pool
THE PRESIDENT meets with the National Space Council In-House Pool (Pre-set 9:30AM | Final Gather 11:15AM -- Palm Room Doors)
Now playing
01:40
Trump: The US will not be a migrant camp

Story highlights

Those who overstay a visa waiver don't have a right to a hearing, ICE says

Immigration lawyer: Only 15% of removal cases ever go before a judge

The Trump administration says it wants to increase expedited removals

CNN —  

Can an undocumented immigrant be kicked out of the United States without a court hearing?

That’s a key question at the heart of a controversial case that’s become the latest lightning rod in the debate over the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

ICE officers detained Daniela Vargas in Mississippi this week after she spoke out about the issue at a news conference. Activists swiftly rallied around Vargas, describing her as a “DREAMer” – an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the United States as a child.

But according to Vargas’ attorneys, authorities are focusing on another aspect of the 22-year-old’s case, arguing that she and other members of her family came to the United States as part of a visa waiver program, overstayed their welcome and can now be immediately deported.

While lawyers push for Vargas to have a chance to make her case in court, here’s a look at a few larger issues that this case highlights:

Visa waiver program participants who overstay can be swiftly deported.

The visa waiver program allows citizens of certain countries to enter the United States for tourism or business and stay for as long as 90 days.

But remaining beyond that time limit can carry serious consequences.

“You don’t get the right to a hearing,” said Bryan Cox, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

That means if you overstay and are apprehended, there’s no guarantee you’ll get to make your case in court before authorities deport you. But Cox said you could still end up in front of a judge if you’re seeking asylum or some other sort of protected status.

Cox declined to discuss the Vargas case. ICE has confirmed Vargas is in custody, describing her as “an unlawfully present Argentinian citizen.” The 22-year-old’s attorneys say she and her family came to the United States on a visa waiver.

Currently, 38 countries are part of the visa waiver program. US officials removed Argentina from the list in 2002. According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, at that time a growing number of Argentines were using the program as a way to illegally immigrate to the United States, staying past the 90-day limit as the South American country faced a devastating economic crisis.

In a report released last year, the Department of Homeland Security estimated that 153,166 visitors from the visa waiver program overstayed in fiscal year 2015 – less than 1% of the nearly 21 million participants in the program that year.

Deportations without court hearings are more common than you think.

People who entered with visa waivers and then stayed past the limit aren’t the only ones who could face swift deportation if they get detained.

In recent years, immigration authorities have increasingly fast-tracked their efforts to kick certain people out of the United States without court hearings in a process known as “expedited removal.”

Only about 15% of the roughly 400,000 people who are removed from the United States each year ever go before a judge, according to Greg Chen, advocacy director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Under the Obama administration, the increasing reliance on expedited removals drew criticism from people on both sides of the immigration debate.

Advocates for stricter immigration enforcement accused the Obama administration of using expedited removal simply to inflate deportation statistics. Immigrant rights advocates also slammed the approach, claiming it trampled the rights of vulnerable people – some of whom deserved asylum but never had the chance to make their case in court.

The Trump administration plans to use that approach more often.

President Donald Trump’s approach to cracking down on illegal immigration is still taking shape. But recently released memos indicate his administration plans to increase the use of expedited removals.

During the Obama administration, the use of expedited removal was limited to undocumented immigrants apprehended within 100 miles of the border who’d been in the United States for less than two weeks.

The Trump administration has indicated it plans to use that approach in far more cases, widening the definition to include undocumented immigrants apprehended anywhere in the United States who’ve been in the country for less than two years.

In a memo outlining the plan, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said a surge of illegal immigration at the southern US border has overwhelmed federal agencies and strained resources, and he pointed to the record-high backlog of pending cases in immigration courts.

The looming change isn’t sitting well with immigrant rights activists.

“It’s extremely likely that it (expedited removal) will be applied to a much larger swath of people,” Chen said. “It’s a severe abridgment to kind of a sense of rule of law and fair processes for people if suddenly we have officers and agents picking people up and serving as essentially judge and jury in their case.”

If officials increase their use of expedited removals, activists say they are preparing to make their own case in court.

“That’s the big issue on the horizon,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the national Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. “It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re keeping a close eye on it.”

CNN’s Jamiel Lynch and Tal Kopan contributed to this report.