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DACA recipient flight attendant released by ICE
An undocumented flight attendant who was in federal custody for six weeks was released Friday, after her case received widespread media attention.
Selene Saavedra Roman, a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, was detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in February as a crew member of a Mesa Airlines flight returning to Houston from Monterrey, Mexico.
Saavedra was released from custody Friday afternoon, according to her lawyer, Belinda Arroyo.
"They just said she's been released," Arroyo said while discussing Saavedra's case on a call with The Hill. "Her husband just informed me."
According to Arroyo, Saavedra was transferred from CBP custody to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody because of the unusual nature of her case.
DACA recipients are allowed to work and live in the country legally, but are not allowed to travel abroad and return to the United States.
DACA recipients were allowed under the program to apply for advanced parole to travel abroad, but advanced parole has not been available since President Trump canceled DACA in September 2017.
Representatives from Mesa erroneously told Saavedra she could travel to Mexico with her DACA documentation, which prompted her detention.
"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 CEO Jonathan Ornstein.
"Basically the administrative error is that they told her she could travel," said Arroyo.
Saavedra's case was kept away from media attention for nearly six weeks, said Arroyo, but things changed when ICE contacted United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to go after Saavedra's DACA status.
"We were working with the agency for her release, we recently learned on Tuesday that they reached out to USCIS to request whether her DACA could be revoked," said Arroyo.
"Once they did that, we though it was best to bring her story to the attention of the media, and hopefully get some help," she added.
The Department of Homeland Security - the parent agency of ICE and CBP - did not immediately return a request for comment on this story.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) and Mesa Airlines also came to Saavedra's defense.
"Our union is mobilizing and we will not stop fighting until Selene is returned home and all charges dropped," said Sara Nelson, president of AFA. "We will fight with every tool at our disposal until justice is done, Selene is reunited with her husband and cleared of these outrageous charges."
Nelson later tweeted that she spoke to Saavedra's attorney and her husband was on the way to pick her up.
"She's been released thanks to everyone who raised their voice," Nelson tweeted.
Saavedra is a Peruvian national who arrived in the United States at age 3, and had not left the country until the flight to Monterrey. She is a Texas A&M graduate married to a U.S. citizen.
According to Timothy Oberle, a spokesman for ICE, Saavedra remains in custody.
"On Feb. 12, Peruvian national Selene Saavedra Roman, 28, applied for admission to the United States without valid entry documentation. She was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and processed as a refused crewmember. Saavedra Roman is currently in ICE custody pending adjudication of her immigration proceedings," said Oberle.