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Expert: Flight Attendant's DACA Debacle Demonstrates 'How Broken' Our Immigration System Is

March 23, 2019 (1 min read)

Lomi Kriel, Houston Chronicle, Mar. 22, 2019

"Selene Saavedra had been a flight attendant at Mesa Airlines for just a month when the company scheduled her on a flight to Mexico.

The 28-year-old from Bryan had put the country on her “no fly” list, worried that her temporary permit for young immigrants who came here illegally as children would keep her from being allowed back into the United States. Her supervisors incorrectly told her that status, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, would protect her.

... Immediately upon her return from Monterrey to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Customs and Border Protection agents detained her, saying she did not have a valid visa.

Federal agents imprisoned Saavedra in an immigrant detention center in Conroe and asked the government to revoke her DACA permit. She faced deportation to Peru, a country she hasn’t seen since she was 3.

... “This shows how broken our immigration system is,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell University. “Immigration law is very complicated and CBP has incredible power at the border, and this administration is exercising it to detain more people, rather than extending their discretion favorably.”

... Saavedra’s situation was dire, so her husband took to the Internet.

“It was a quagmire and it was definitely a pointless battle,” said David Watkins, 33. “Until I got social media involved.”

... Late Friday, Saavedra called her husband, whom she met years ago at Texas A&M University, where they both studied.

“She called me crying and said, ‘Come get me,’” Watkins said. “The power of social media.”

Oberle, the ICE spokesman, confirmed that Saavedra was released from ICE custody at 6:15 p.m., Friday “pending adjudication of her immigration proceedings.”

Watkins said the ordeal wasn’t over and that Saavedra would still have to plead her case in immigration court, where she faces deportation for leaving the country against the terms of her DACA permit.

Arroyo, Saavedra's attorney, said the government granted her the status known as parole late Friday, so she could be eligible to more easily adjust her status."