If a young woman is released from ICE custody, does that make a happy ending—even if she is released after a month and a half in prison? Even if she still faces the threat of deportation? That’s the ongoing saga of Selene Saavedra Roman, a young woman who came to the United States from Peru when she was three years old. She qualified for DACA status, got it, and graduated from college. Now 24 years old, she is married to a U.S. citizen and is a flight attendant. Her husband filed a petition for her green card (legal permanent residence).
Then, in February, Mesa Airlines assigned her a flight to Mexico. She told her boss that she couldn’t do it because of her DACA status. He assured her that it was okay, no problem as long as this was a work assignment. He was wrong.
When the flight returned to the United States, ICE put her in deportation proceedings and in prison. And there she stayed for six weeks, seeing her husband only through a “thick plastic window.” Her lawyer said she wasr “the poster child for what happens when you leave these people in legal limbo.”
Last week, her union started what quickly snowballed into a massive social media campaign. That got results where weeks of legal negotiations had failed. Saavedra Roman was released on Friday, March 22.
The U.S. government still wants to deport her, so she and her husband still face ongoing legal battles (and bills). The happy ending may be in this lesson: focused public attention and publicity make a difference.
A second story with a happy ending comes from Hudson, New York. ICE agents tried to arrest two passengers in a car on March 5 at about 9 a.m. The driver, Columbia County Sanctuary Movement Executive Director Bryan MacCormack, wouldn’t open the doors. Other “citizens at the scene” also intervened, saying that ICE had no authority to take anyone away without a warrant signed by a judge, which they did not have.
“During the attempted arrest, MacCormack called several people to come to the scene and serve as witnesses to the incident, including Common Council Majority Leader and 2nd Ward Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga, who showed up. …
“MacCormack said the two men sought by ICE were not detained thanks to the Sanctuary Movement’s efforts to encourage immigrants, regardless of their status, to know their rights. Immigrants regularly take part in training that teaches them how to recognize different official documents and if they are required to comply,”
The two unidentified immigrants remain in sanctuary, with no final resolution of their cases in sight. Once again, the “happy ending” is in the demonstration of the power of people to make a difference by asserting their rights and defending the rights of others.
The final happy ending story is that nine-year-old Julia Isabel Amparo Medina is back home with her family after a scary 32 hours in the custody of the Border Patrol. Her ordeal began when she and her 14-year-old brother, Oscar, crossed the border from their home in Tijuana to their school in San Ysidro, California. Because of a traffic jam, they were walking rather than riding in a car. They are U.S. citizens, with U.S. passport cards, but for some reason the Border Patrol decided that Julia was lying about her identity.
“I was scared. I was sad because I didn’t have my mom or my brother. I was completely by myself,” Julia Medina said. She said she woke up several times throughout the night, sad because she wasn’t with her family.
“Galaxia said officers made Oscar Medina sign a document that said his little sister was his cousin.
“That is not true,” Galaxia said. “She is my daughter. He was told that he would be taken to jail and they were going to charge him for human trafficking and sex trafficking.”
Julia and Oscar are back at home now. That’s as close to a happy ending as immigration stories come these days.
Abuse of power and abuse of discretion by immigration authorities continue. Until U.S. immigration laws, policies, and enforcement turn in the direction of humanitarian concern rather than exclusion and punishment, happy endings will continue to be hard to find.