On Feb. 12, what should have been a routine flight for Selene Saavedra Roman turned into horror when immigration officials arrested her. The 28-year-old had just started her job as a flight attendant with Mesa Airlines and had expressed to her supervisor her reservations with traveling to Mexico. Roman is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiary, and not yet a U.S. citizen. Her boss told Roman that there would be no issues with her traveling to another country regardless of her DACA status, but they were unfortunately wrong.
After the flight landed in Mexico, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents “pulled her aside,” according to a petition, and questioned her for 24 hours. Roman, who has no previous criminal record, came to the U.S. from Peru as a two-year-old. She is now married to a U.S. citizen and is also a graduate of Texas A&M Univerisity. She ended up in ICE detainment for six weeks.
Pro-immigration advocates and the Association of Flight Attendants rallied behind Roman and demanded her release. The Association of Flight Attendants launched a petition and stated weeks ago that Roman “was transferred to ICE custody where she has been held in ‘prison conditions.’ Immigration hearings are scheduled for next month, but they could end with deportation for someone who has done nothing but follows all of the rules. We demand that Selene immediately be released, reunited with her husband, and all charges against her dropped.”
In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, Roman’s husband, David Watkins said this ordeal has been traumatizing since the very beginning.
Such a sad story. @TAMU grad, #DACA recipient, & @MesaAirlines flight attendant detained at IAH after returning from a flight. She’s been at a Conroe ICE facility since February!
Read: https://t.co/letlXtAGJ0#freeselene movement is gaining steam. pic.twitter.com/afQ7HWnhLC
— Miya Shay (@miyashay) March 22, 2019
“She called me crying and said, ‘Come get me,'” Watkins said, recalling when he first heard his wife was in ICE custody. “She’s distraught and depressed,” Watkins added. “I told her, ‘If you get deported, I’ll still be with you. We’ll just go to Peru together.'”
Thanks to the petition, media pressure, and even a push by Hillary Clinton, Roman was finally released on March 23. Roman “is now home with her husband,” according to an update in the petition. “We won the first battle, but this fight is not over. ICE is still trying to strip Selene’s DACA status and deport her. Please sign the petition, and we will keep you up to date on additional actions to protect Selene from deportation.”
The U.S. government is still in the middle of figuring out what to do about DREAMers.
Denise L. Gilman, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, told The Dallas Morning News, that while Roman’s detention wasn’t illegal, she shouldn’t have been a target.
“DACA never provided a path to long-term stability for young people living in the U.S.,” Gilman told the publication. “That’s why there’s been such a push for Congress to create a pathway to permanent legal status for DACA holders. DACA is just a temporary reprieve from deportation.”
Mesa Airlines has come under fire for their role in Roman’s immigration issues.