LOS ANGELES, Calif. (August 7, 2017): More than five months after ICE arrested Rómulo Avelica while he was dropping his daughters off at school on February 28, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) today granted an emergency stay of removal, preventing his deportation while the BIA reviews his case. The Ninth Circuit had stayed his deportation from the date of his arrest, but that stay was due to expire today.
“This is my country; I have roots and family here. And today I am grateful beyond words that the court has prevented ICE from deporting me,” said Rómulo Avelica, speaking from Adelanto Detention Center in San Bernardino County. “Every day I wake up knowing that I must be at least half as strong as my children have been in their fight for my freedom. I have gained strength from all who have stood alongside me these past months—the most difficult period of my life. I will never give up fighting for my rights, and for the rights of other immigrants.”
“The BIA granted an emergency stay of removal for Rómulo, preventing ICE from deporting him,” said Alan Diamante, an immigration attorney for Rómulo Avelica. “We are now asking the BIA to reconsider its prior decision and recognize that Mr. Avelica should have a right to stay in the United States. ICE should release Rómulo immediately.”
“These last months have been very hard for my dad and for us. My life changed the day that ICE arrested my dad while he was taking me to school,” said Fátima Avelica, Mr. Avelica’s 13-year-old daughter who video-taped Mr. Avelica’s February 28 arrest. “Now that the court has recognized that he should not be deported, I hope that ICE will release him from detention. He should not be imprisoned just for trying to live a better life and stay with his family.”
Mr. Avelica’s arrest has served as an embodiment of the painful reality of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. Mr. Avelica, a father of four U.S. citizen children, and a cook at the time of his arrest, has lived in L.A. for nearly 40 years. Dozens of elected officials —from City Hall to Capitol Hill— and other community leaders have rallied around him and his family, calling for Mr. Avelica’s release and a stay of his deportation.
“There is a reason why so much attention has been paid to this case. Rómulo’s arrest, incarceration, and threatened deportation symbolize the moral crisis facing our country. But at the same time, his and his family’s courageous defense has united and inspired countless people,” said Emi MacLean, an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and part of Mr. Avelica’s legal team. “Above all, the lesson here is this: we must not look away; to witness what we saw through his daughter’s eyes and to do nothing normalizes this brutality. Every case must be contested. No one is disposable. When we join together, we win.”
Ricardo Mireles, the Executive Director of Academia Avance, the school attended by two of Mr. Avelica’s daughters, said: “Today the BIA action renews optimism that Rómulo Avelica can once again be present soon to support Yuleni and Fatima’s goals to graduate from college. The huge public outcry has for a moment drowned out the hatred espoused by this White House. Today Rómulo stands for all immigrants as a champion of hope. And this victory today must motivate us to work on behalf of other immigrants facing the same threats.”
Gil Cedillo, Los Angeles City Councilmember, said: “Our district is dealing with the aftermath of having ICE raids in our community. Not only is Rómulo’s family living with fear, stress and anxiety, but so is everyone else who has followed this case. We are still hopeful that Romulo will be released, as he is a productive member of our community and the sole breadwinner for his family. His deportation would be detrimental to his family and unnerving to the entire community. We remain united and await his return home with his family where he belongs.”
Follow the National Day Laborer Organizing Network on Twitter @ndlon.