Serene Saavedra Roman was held by I.C.E. for over a month after attempting to re-enter the United States following a routine flight.
A Texas flight attendant, DACA recipient and ‘Dreamer’ was purportedly detained by immigration officials for over a month.
According to the Associated Press, Selene Saavedra Roman, 28, was released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on Friday. Saavedra Roman, like all members of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, came to the United States illegally as a child.
She was arrested and transported to a detention center in Conroe, Texas after attempting to return home from a work-related flight to Mexico.
It took more than a month for Saavedra Roman to be freed, even though her status as a DACA recipient allows her to reside and work in the United States legally.
“Being released is an incredible feeling,” Saavedra Roman said through a spokesperson. “I cried and hugged my husband and never wanted to let go. 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 me. I am just so happy to have my freedom back.”
The AP reports that Saavedra Roman is originally from Peru. While married to an American citizen, she’s yet to be naturalized.
Prior to and during her employment with Mesa Airlines, Saavedra Roman purportedly asked whether her immigration status might be an issue on international routes. Her attorney, Belinda Arroyo, recalls that Mesa told her she’d be fine.
Nevertheless, Saavedra Roman was detained by immigration officials on 12 February, shortly after touching down in Houston. She spent five weeks incarcerated while Arroyo, along with her husband, Mesa Airlines, and a flight attendants’ advocacy group, petitioned on her behalf.
While Saavedra Roman remained behind bars, I.C.E. said it was looking into her legal status. The Associated Press says the agency claimed she’d attempted to re-enter the United States without valid documents.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers DACA, said program beneficiaries are allowed to travel outside the United States if they receive prior permission and credentials. Immigrants who step outside bounds lose their eligibility.
People enrolled in DACA, notes the AP, are often referred to as “Dreamers.” Begun under the Obama administration, the program provides temporary, renewable residency and work permits for immigrants who arrived to the United States illegally and as children.
Not all migrants can become Dreamers: they must pass a criminal background check and show evidence either of having attained sufficient education or qualifying military service.
After Saavedra Roman was detained, Mesa Airlines and its chief executive, Jonathon Ornstein, have publicly apologized for their role in their administrative mishap. Ornstein personally asked ICE to release her, saying it was unfair to keep her in custody over what amounted to a simple “misunderstanding.”
Her husband, David Watkins, said she’d received authorization to go abroad because USCIS had approved her green card application.
During her detention, Watkins said he could only visit her once per week.
“I told her, ‘Even if you get deported to Peru, I’ll just go with you’,” Watkins told reporters. “Regardless of whatever happens in the future, I am not giving up. I am going to keep fighting.”