DACA FLIGHT ATTENDANT DETAINED FOR MORE THAN A MONTH FROM RE-ENTERING UNITED STATES

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

Selene Saavedra Roman has lived in the United States for 25 years (since she was 3), is a graduate of Texas A&M, is married to a US citizen, has no criminal record, is trying to obtain permanent resident status, and left the US for purposes of her job as a flight attendant.  Does it seem reasonable to detain a person such as Ms. Roman from re-entering the US when she returns to the US in connection with her job?  While the answer to this question should be no, unfortunately, because Ms. Roman’s US immigration rights are derived from her status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Ms. Roman was detained from re-entering the US for more than a month before she was released last week.

Ms. Roman works for a regional airline company, Mesa Airlines.  When Mesa Airlines scheduled Ms. Roman to fly to Mexico in February, Ms. Roman expressed concern that as a DACA beneficiary, she would not be allowed to re-enter the United States.  However, her employer told her that she would have no issue returning to the US, and, relying on her employer’s assurance, she flew to Mexico.

When Ms. Roman landed in Houston on her return flight on February 12, she was detained by customs officials.  She remained in custody (held in a detention center in Conroe, Texas) for more than 5 weeks until she was released on March 22.  Ms. Roman’s case attracted national attention while she was detained, as such prominent persons as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Julian Castro all argued for her release.  While she is now released, Ms. Roman is scheduled to appear before an immigration judge in April and still could face deportation.

Ms. Roman’s case highlights the difficulties that DACA beneficiaries are experiencing under the policies of the Trump administration.  President Trump has attempted to end the DACA program.  While the courts have so far prevented the termination of the DACA program, President Trump has been able to order that DACA beneficiaries have no permission to leave the United States and that those who do leave the country will not be allowed to return (in effect, disallowing any “advance parole” request by a DACA beneficiary).  Ms. Roman’s attorney, Belinda Arroyo, in speaking about DACA beneficiaries, stated, “They’ve been lost in legal limbo, and it’s getting quite ridiculous. . . . Her case is basically the poster child for what happens when you leave these people in legal limbo”.

Besides its relevance to the law regarding DACA, Ms. Roman’s case exemplifies that immigration law is complex and that immigrants should be careful not to make travel decisions without first consulting an immigration attorney.  Neither Ms. Roman nor apparently Mesa Airlines consulted with an immigration attorney before Ms. Roman left on her flight to Mexico.  The Law Offices of Kameli and Associates has many years of extensive experience in advising immigrants on travel decisions and other immigration issues.  If you have questions on DACA or any other immigration matter, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000.