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.