United Express Flight Attendant Imprisoned by ICE For Over a Month

Selene Saavedra Roman is a flight attendant for Mesa Airlines, operating for United Express when she was assigned a trip to Mexico on February 12. It was a straight turn-around, she never even got off the plane. But when she returned to the U.S. she was detained at the border and has been in prison now for a month and a half.

The 28 year old woman came to the United States with her parents when she was 3 years old. She is a graduate of Texas A&M, held a valid immigration status and is married to a U.S. citizen. She was in the process of obtaining citizenship. However when she returned on her Peruvian passport she was stopped.

Saavedra Roman’s parents were undocumented, and she’s been in the U.S. in valid DACA status. The federal government wants to deport her to Peru, where she has no ties whatsoever. She hasn’t been to that country – indeed, hadn’t left the United States – in 25 years.

No matter what you think of immigration, this flight attendant isn’t the problem. She was living in the U.S. in valid status and had legal employment authorization. Departing the US and returning would have required Advance Parole, and traveling without that was technically a violation.

She had been assured by her supervisor at Mesa Airlines that her work travel to Mexico in DACA status would be fine. She was still on probation as a new hire at Mesa, and didn’t want to jeopardize her job by refusing the assignment.

I had issues with Marriott content at The Points Guy yesterday, but for those of you trashing that site in the comments consider that they covered this story before I did and they’re cited in the online petition to free Saavedra Roman. They have a platform, and it can be used for good.

“She spent Valentine’s Day in prison, I know that,” [her husband] said in a telephone interview. “They’re only allowed outside once a week, like in a concrete courtyard where I guess they can look at the sky, and maybe they have grass. She wakes up at 6 for chow, and it’s lights out at 10:30pm, and it’s all about the other prisoners trying not to tear each other apart. I can visit her for an hour once a week, but I can’t bring her books or photos, and it’s through two inches of glass. I mean, yeah, it’s a prison.”

Reportedly neither Mesa (nor United) have offered any assistance. Oscar Munoz can do better. She has a hearing April 4.

Here by the way are George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan debating what to do with children of undocumented immigrants growing up in the United States.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. As a Trump voter, who absolutely supports his immigration views: Even I’m sympathetic to this case. To you other Trump supporters, yeah she technically broke the “law” however she was brought here when she was fucking 3 years old. I’m not saying you need to support her being a citizen, but to not have ANY sympathy whatsoever is inhuman.

    Without going into a 5 page comment on our immigration laws, this sort of situation highlights the major problems. There are just way too many incentives to come here illegally. I legit don’t blame people for doing so. Free education, free healthcare, access to jobs, free programs and legal aid to help them – Rivals any form of quality of life they likely would have had in Mexico, Guatemala, etc. Not to mention, that they largely do this for their kids. Until this is fixed, this sort of thing will continue. The incentives are just way too lucrative. Were *I* in their shoes – You could build a 100 foot wall, and my ass would just hop a plane and overstay my visa. Illegal? Sure.. But could you really blame me for trying?

  2. RE: LK. Argue with a lefty, they start demanding that you and people like you get put in jail. Police state mindset.

    @Manger. I agree with you. To be honest, my first thought was that they should deport her parents and let her stay. “Free education, free healthcare, access to jobs, free programs and legal aid to help them”, all required by liberal Judges. Nobody voted on these “rights”. In fact, the politicians (on both sides of the aisle) told us that these programs would not apply to illegal aliens.

    Also, I worry about the law of unintended consequences. When a child is the ticket to staying in the USA, then every illegal immigrant will bring a child, even if they have to kidnap the child.

    Further, not all children are innocent. Do some research about children soldiers and how it impacts their psyche. I feel sorry for them, but I would be worried if my children where playing with them. In fact, it is not even a secret in Western cultures. Many of the ruthless outlaws in the old west learned about killing early during the Civil War as children. Even Marvel Comic Book have characters like Kingpin, learn about killing while a child. Some children, due to their upbringing, will kill without remorse.

  3. @Manger 2. They need to fix visa overstays too. Also, they need to make it easier to get green cards for people that would be an asset to the USA society. I knew people with very high IQs who graduated from top colleges, that had to leave the USA, because they could not get a green card. In his book, Make America Great Again, Trump indicates that these people should be allowed to stay. The reason we cannot fix those problems, is because the border is wide open.

    Many argue that there will always be people sneaking into the USA. True, but several thousand a year is not a big deal. Millions a year is.

  4. It’s more than fine to show sympathy, all in the context of our existing legal framework. You may even rally fund raising to make sure there is maximum legal hacking to the advantage of Selene. But there should always be balance. On the one hand, United States must be lawful. And on the other, offenders are given penalty commensurate with offense committed. I tend to think Selene is definitely in a case of non-compliance. The lesser nature does not mean she is entitled to a free pass automatically, and she should still try to resolve it lawfully. Like I said above, Selene can receive consultation on how to proceed. She may wait it out while making her case heard and prepare all the needed paper work (which she should have done prior to her travel to begin with). The fact that Selene’s case was made public for your sympathy probably means she is having big brain behind her, and she is more fortunate than in many otherwise quiet cases.

  5. It’s so easy to come illegally and to have a lot of benefits that no other country provides. Free education, free healthcare, free programs, easy access to jobs. Our own citizen children are not privileged as the illegal immigrants. Looks like it’s better to come illegally then legally. Might as well remove visa, immigration check points at the airport. Then anybody can come and stay in the States. All tax payers money was funded for the illegal immigrants but for our citizens we have to pay for healthcare insurance, pay for college education. No other countries provide such a benefits to the illegal immigrants except here.

  6. “This no other country is so generous with the free this and that” is bullshit. Have a look around you – the rest of the civilised world is often more civilised than the good old USA.

  7. “This no other country is so generous with the free this and that (for illegal immigrants)” True
    “the rest of the civilised world is often more civilised than the good old USA” Also true

  8. Wow is her fault she should have known her limitations, and have read and understood the laws and abide by them, her ignorance is ovious she shouldn’t have taken That trip either way, regardless if her employer told her, they are not border control, I have help people get their permit and always encourage them to understand what can you do and what they cannot. This is a case of wrongdoing by the daca holder she clearly broke the rules. I’m sorry for her time been held in immigration but so much sorry for her ignorance!
    Now she is making Latinos look dumber shame on her! Next time read carefully your rights as immigrant.

  9. So, she should’ve told her new employer in her new job that she can’t do her job. I’m sure that would go down very well.

  10. Please warn us when obscenities are used. Otherwise delete them. I want to read about travel, not be abused by obscenities in your blog. (In response to Mangar.)

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