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Selene Roman (photo courtesy David Watkins)
Selene Roman (photo courtesy David Watkins)


ICE locked up this flight attendant for flying to Mexico — until an online outcry got her freed

By WITW Staff on March 22, 2019

Selene Roman, a flight attendant for Phoenix-based Mesa Airlines, was held in a Texas immigration detention center for over a month because she was assigned to a flight that flew to Mexico. Friday afternoon, amid an online outcry that included a tweet of support from Hillary Clinton, Roman was hastily released

“She just called me with tears in her eyes and said, ‘I’m out,’” her husband, David Watkins, told airline industry blog The Points Guy.

It was the kind of surreal drama that has become common under the Trump Administration, in which a provocative example of the president’s immigration crackdown sparks outrage on social media. 

Soon after becoming public, Roman’s case generated a rapid groundswell of support. The 28 year old, born in Peru, has been living in the United States since she was 3. She came to the U.S. as a toddler, grew up in Dallas, attended Texas A&M University and married a U.S. citizen. She is one of the 700,000 “Dreamers” who fall under America’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. She has a social security number and is in the process of getting her U.S. citizenship.

Recently hired by Mesa Airlines, she was at first reluctant to fly to Mexico because of her immigration status, but ultimately agreed after the airline assured her it wouldn’t cause a problem. On February 12, she flew from Houston to Mexico, the first time she had left the U.S. since entering as a child. After arriving in Mexico, she immediately caught a flight back to Houston and was detained at the airport upon arrival.

For over five weeks, she was housed in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center, which her husband, David Watkins, described to The Points Guy as a prison-like facility. According to Roman’s lawyer, ICE was pushing to have her DACA status revoked and deport her to Peru. It’s unclear whether that will change now. Her immigration hearing is scheduled for April 4.

Mesa Airlines said in a statement that they were aware of the situation and working to understand what happened. Meanwhile, the Association of Flight Attendants asked people to sign a petition in support of Roman, which they planned to present to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. On Twitter, Roman’s supporters called for her release with the hashtag #FreeSelene. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged her Twitter followers to “get the word out.”

Despite Roman’s release, the incident has only added to the growing insecurity of Dreamers who once thought of their legal status in the U.S. as relatively stable.

“It really boggles my mind why the government would want to seek to continue to detain someone with no criminal history who was a graduate of Texas A&M and who was approved and on her way to citizenship but was held for what was obviously a mistake,” Roman’s lawyer, Belinda Arroyo, told The Points Guy. 

Read more at The Points Guy.


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