Things That Matter

ICE Releases Flight Attendant and DACA Recipient That Was Held for 6 Weeks

Selene Saavedra Roman, 28, a Mesa Airlines flight attendant, was released from immigration detention last week after being taken into custody when she returned to the U.S. on a flight from Mexico she was working.
Saavedra Roman, who as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient is banned from traveling outside the U.S. under Trump administration’s rules, had been detained for the past six weeks. This all happened despite reassurance from her employer that she would not have problems re-entering the U.S. after working the international route. All of this had caused an uproar online about her rights and correct protocol for immigration officials to follow.

Two years ago,the Trump administration reversed the ability of DACA recipients to leave the U.S.

Saavedra Roman came to the U.S. with her parents from Peru when she was three and had been enrolled in the DACA program since 2012. She is also married to David Watkins, an American citizen, and had already received approval from Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for a green card as the wife of an American citizen.

The 28-year-old has lived in the U.S. for past 25 years, growing up in Dallas, Texas. It was there where she graduated from Texas A&M in 2014 and been working to complete the process to obtain permanent status. She had previously worked as a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teacher before starting pursuing a career as a flight attendant. She has no criminal record.

Despite all this, Saavedra Roman was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and was threatened to lose her DACA protections because she left the country without first applying for “advance parole” (which requires a fee of over $500).

“I got the call. She was crying and she said, ‘Please come get me. They are going to release me,'” Watkins told NBC News.

She specifically requested Mexico and Canada on her “no fly” list upon being hired.

Saavedra Roman had informed Mesa Airlines upon being hired about her DACA status, according to her attorney, Belinda Arroyo, who told NBC News. When she found out she was going to be assigned the Mexico flight, she sent several emails to her job questioning whether she could work the flight due to her status.

The airline told her it would be allowed, Arroyo said. After being hired in January, she was still on probation with the airline and was concerned about losing her job if she rejected the assignment.

Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, told NBC News it’s common practice for flight attendants to request to be excluded from certain flight routes.

“She was a brand-new flight attendant. She asked her company for guidance and raised concerns. This was an administrative error, and justice takes into consideration the realities of the situation,” Nelson told NBC News. “There is no one looking at this with a reasonable lens.”

In a joint statement with the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), Mesa Airlines chief executive Jonathan Ornstein issued an apology to Saavedra Roman and asked ICE to release her. They argued that it’s wrong to continually detain someone “over something that is nothing more than an administrative error and a misunderstanding.”

Her story captured the attention of many across the country that led to a petition asking for her release.

Following her arrest and detention, Mesa Airlines and the AFA asked that the Trump administration and the DHS release Saavedra Roman. The detention even caught the attention of Hillary Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro.

Shortly after a MoveOn.org petition was launched calling for her freedom, Saavedra Roman was released from ICE detention.

“Being released is an indescribable feeling. I cried and hugged my husband and never wanted to let go,” said Saavedra Roman in a statement. “I am thankful and grateful for the amazing people that came to fight for me, and it fills my heart. Thank you to everyone that has supported. I am just so happy to have my freedom back.”

Saavedra Roman is scheduled to appear before an immigration judge in April. 

READ: Miami Film Festival Cancels Screening of Immigration Doc After ICE Detained The Movie’s Main Character

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Biden Nominates Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez To Lead ICE And Here’s Why That Matters

Things That Matter

Biden Nominates Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez To Lead ICE And Here’s Why That Matters

For years now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been enforcing cruel and, in many opinions, illegal immigration policies that have affected the most vulnerable among us. And they’ve been doing it without a permanent leader who can be held accountable.

The Trump administration relied on interim leaders and deputy secretaries to head the sprawling and powerful agency. Now, President Biden has nominated a frequent outspoken Trump critic to lead the agency and many are hopeful there could be real change.

The White House has nominated Texas sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead ICE.

President Joe Biden has nominated a Texas sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, to lead ICE. Gonzalez has been the sheriff of Harris County (parts of Houston, TX) since 2017, leading the state’s largest sheriffs department. He has led a team of 5,000 employees in the position and previously served 18 years with the Houston Police Department, rising to the rank of sergeant, according to his profile on his office’s website.

Gonzalez has also been a vocal critic of elements of former President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement policies.

Gonzalez is the second such critic to be selected by Biden for a senior position in the Department of Homeland Security, following the nomination two weeks ago of Tucson, AZ., Police Chief Chris Magnus to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Gonzalez has long been a voice of reason within law enforcement leading many to be hopeful for change.

During his first term as sheriff Gonzalez ended a program with ICE that trained 10 Harris County deputies to determine the immigration status of prisoners, and hold for deportation those in the country illegally.

As sheriff he also opposed Texas legislation requiring local law enforcement to determine individuals’ immigration status, according to The Texas Tribune. The legislation was viewed as targeting so-called “sanctuary cities.” Gonzalez, like many in law enforcement, said the approach would destroy trust and make their job protecting communities more difficult.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas praised Biden’s pick in a statement Tuesday.

“Sheriff Ed Gonzalez is a strong choice for ICE Director,” Mayorkas said. “With a distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, Sheriff Gonzalez is well-suited to lead ICE as the agency advances our public safety and homeland security mission. I hope the Senate will swiftly confirm Sheriff Gonzalez to this critical position.”

ICE has long been missing a permanent director to lead the agency.

Gonzales would succeed Tae Johnson, who has been serving as acting ICE director since Jan. 13. He previously served as the agency’s deputy director.

ICE has not had a permanent director since 2017. The agency operated with five acting directors under the Trump administration. This comes as the Biden administration has faced challenges at the border, including a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S.

The announcement of Gonzalez’s nomination comes on the heels of another major announcement from DHS. Mayorkas also announced Tuesday that he has directed ICE and Customs and Border Protection to place new limits on civil immigration enforcement actions in or near courthouses.

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Tate’s Cookies Threatened to Report Undocumented Workers to ICE If They Unionized

Culture

Tate’s Cookies Threatened to Report Undocumented Workers to ICE If They Unionized

Photo via chocolleto/Instagram

Fans of the crispy, buttery Tate’s cookies might be sad when they hear this news. According to current employees, the popular cookie business has been threatening employees who are trying to unionize.

According to multiple employees, Tate’s cookies threatened to contact ICE if workers vote to unionize next month.

According to Gothamist, most of Tate Bake Shop’s 432 employees are undocumented workers. But the National Labor Relations Act says that undocumented workers have a lawful right to unionize.

The powerhouse baked goods company Mondelēz International owns Tate’s cookies. Additionally, Mondelēz owns other popular brands like Oreo and Chips Ahoy. Local union leaders have called the company “anti-union on steroids”.

Once Tate’s cookies heard rumblings of their workers unionizing, however, they hired an anti-labor consultant. The consultant, Carlos Flores, brags on LinkedIn about keeping businesses “labor free”.

“They began threatening people based on their immigration status, telling them that if their documents are not in order and they attempted to join the labor union they would get deported,” said Eastern States’ Union president, Cosmo Lubrano.

The consultant allegedly told workers that he would review their documentation to see if “everything was in order”. If it wasn’t, he said ICE might “send them back”.

“Just because a worker wants to organize, wants to have representation doesn’t mean a company should make their life miserable,” said Julio, an undocumented worker, to The New York Times.

Tate’s cookies employees only began to discuss the possibility of unionizing when the pandemic hit. Workers felt that the cookie company might not protect them should they fall ill.

“We were in the heart of the pandemic at that time and they didn’t know any of the rules that applied to them,” said Anthony Miranti, an Eastern States’ union delegate.

“Will they get paid if they have to self-quarantine? How do they get safety equipment? They were telling us about how they’re all at minimum wage and needed more paid time off and there was just nobody to listen to their problems.”

Officially, Mondelēz denies all claims or threatening workers. They released a statement saying: “Any allegation that the company has violated any aspect of the National Labor Relations Act is untrue. Tate’s prides itself on treating all its employees with respect, and we have fostered over many years an inclusive, supportive, caring work environment and culture with our employees.”

Despite the threats to their livelihood, many workers still believe unionizing will ultimately be beneficial.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who work in union shops. They say things are better,” said an undocumented worker by the name of Catalina to the New York Times. “Why not give this an opportunity?”

As Miranti says, “I think the workers that produce these products should be able to put their heads down on their pillows at night and know their job is secured, that their family has the best coverage out there, that they’ll have a pension to retire on someday.”

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