“Dreamer” flight attendant released from ICE after “social media storm”

A “social media storm” sparked the release of DACA recipient Selene Saavedra Roman, the flight attendant whose detainment caused outrage on Friday after it was highlighted by popular travel website “The Points Guy,” said Belinda Arroyo, the immigration attorney representing Roman.

Up until Friday, Roman had been held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since February 13 after she flew to Mexico as a flight attendant for Phoenix, Arizona-based Mesa Airlines. Her story went viral Friday morning, even gaining the attention of former presidential candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. An online petition demanding Roman’s release amassed more than 17,000 signatures. By the afternoon, Roman called her husband to tell him she had been released, Arroyo told CBS News on Friday evening.

“The social media around this was definitely what got her released,” Arroyo said. “We had no luck before now, then the story hit.”

Arroyo noted that ICE had not confirmed to her that Roman had been released yet, and said the agency “hasn’t been forthcoming” with details and information surrounding Roman’s detainment.

Selene Saavedra Roman Davo Watsui/Feldman Strategies via AP

Roman, a Texas A&M graduate, was well on her way to becoming a U.S. citizen before she was detained. Roman was just 3 years old when she illegally entered the U.S. from Peru. She gained legal residency as one of the country’s 700,000 so-called Dreamers, an immigration status reserved for people who entered the country at a young age and fall under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, according to her lawyer. Roman grew up in Texas and married a U.S. citizen.

But a flight in February put all of that at risk. Less than a month into a new job as a flight attendant for Mesa Airlines, Roman was asked to work an international flight that stopped in Mexico. She was assured by her supervisor that the travel was legal, but when she returned to Houston, Customs and Border Patrol officials took her aside and placed her under ICE custody. During the Obama administration, Dreamers were allowed to travel freely, but the Trump administration has restricted those privileges, her attorney said, saying that Mesa made a “mistake” in telling Roman it was OK for her to travel.

“We are deeply sorry Selene and her husband have had to endure this situation. It is patently unfair for someone to be detained for six weeks over something that is nothing more than an administrative error and a misunderstanding,” said Mesa chairman and chief executive officer Jonathan Ornstein in a statement on Friday. “We are doing everything in our power to ask the administration to release Selene, and drop all charges stemming from this horrible situation.”

Arroyo said she assumed Roman’s detainment would be a brief, given the administrative nature of the charge, but “unfortunately that’s not what happened.”

The next step for Roman will be an April 4 immigration court date where she’ll face potential deportation charges, her attorney said.

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