Dreamer detained by ICE for six weeks

Selene Saavedra Roman pictured last fall. In February, the flight attendant and DACA beneficiary was detained after working a flight to Mexico. She was in custody for six weeks before being released March 22. (David Watkins)
Selene Saavedra Roman, originally from Peru, was assigned to a flight to Mexico by her airline, which allayed her fears about her legal status by assuring her that she would have no trouble returning… It wasn´t that way.

Selene Saavedra Román has been living in the United States for 25 years, where she arrived at the age of 3 with her parents, who did not have the necessary documentation to legally enter the country. Born in Peru, she is considered a dreamer who since 2012 participates in the Deferred Action for Arrivals in Childhood (DACA) program, enacted by the government of Barack Obama, which protects her from deportation and gives her the right to work, among other benefits.

While DACA beneficiaries could apply for a travel permit in certain circumstances and return to the U.S. after leaving the country, under Donald Trump’s administration the immigration authorities stopped accepting these applications, and the re-entry permit is no longer available. That’s why when Saavedra Roman found a new job as a flight attendant at the regional airline Mesa Airlines, she indicated on her flight sheet that she did not want it to make international flights.

However, she was assigned to a flight to Mexico, and when she mentioned to her new employer her fears that departure from the U.S. could jeopardize her DACA status, she was assured that she would have no problem re-entering the U.S. Shortly after Saavedra Roman landed in Houston, Texas on a return flight from Mexico on February 12, she was detained and remained in custody for nearly six weeks.

This Thursday the president of the Flight Attendants Association, Sara Nelson, launched a petition for Saavedra Román to be released, and so history grabbed the attention of numerous media outlets. Also Hillary Clinton, who shared the petition on her Twitter account on Friday and described the situation as “horrible. On the same day, Saavedra Roman was released.

The 28-year-old has no criminal record, has been married to an American since 2017, and is in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, the only country she has ever known in her life. Her DACA status expires in November, and authorities have already approved her I-130 Petition that will grant her a residence permit, Belinda Arroyo, a lawyer for Saavedra Roman, confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

The airline already expressed its deep regret for what happened and indicated that it is “unfair” for someone to be detained for six weeks for something that is nothing more than a clerical error and a misunderstanding.

At the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) indicated that Saavedra Roman did not have valid documents for entry. According to Arroyo, officials tried to revoke her DACA status to deport her to Peru and considered her a “newcomer foreigner,” giving her even fewer rights than she would have had before she left the U.S., The Washington Post reported.

“I’m more afraid than angry, I’m afraid something will happen to me because I’m illegal,” Selene told Telemundo after her release. When she was in the detention center, she went through times when “she no longer wanted to live”. Now that the authorities are reviewing her DACA status, she is unsure of her future and fears that they will decide to deport her. “I think I’m more American than Peruvian, my culture is American,” she explained.

 

Source: BuzzFeed News, The Washington Post, Telemundo

 

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