On Tuesday afternoon, Rómulo Avelica-González’s family, friends, lawyers and organizers from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) stood outside of the U.S immigration court building in downtown L.A to demand Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release Avelica-González.
Avelica-González has been detained by ICE for almost six months at the San Bernardino County at a federal detention center in Los Angeles. He could get deported as early as August 7 when the emergency stay of removal with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals expires on August 5, according to one of his lawyers, Emi MacLean.
“Our lives haven’t had real happiness since our father was taking from us,” Brenda Avelica,24, said during Tuesday’s press conference. Her family and friends held posts that said “Free Rómulo.”
“My father is deserving of this country but most importantly he is deserving of his wife and daughters and to be in the country where we are all succeeded,” Brenda added.
ICE agents detained Avelica-González on February 28, as he was driving his two younger daughters, Fatima and Yuleni, to school. Fatima recorded the arrest and the video went viral.
“It’s been hard since he was always there with us. But since he’s locked up there, it’s been hard emotionally and economically,” Fatima told Latino Rebels.
According to an ICE statement, the order for deportation was based on “prior criminal convictions, including a DUI in 2009, as well an outstanding order of removal dating back to 2014,”>ABC 7 News reported.
“From ICE’s perspective, there is a prior deportation order and that is what they’re relying on,” MacLean said told Latino Rebels.
In the meantime, lawyers defending Avelica-González, have filed another stay request with the Department of Homeland Security. “We hope there is a willingness to consider positively the stay request. But at this point, [there is] no clarity from ICE that they will consider that positively,” MacLean continued.
Another avenue for lawyers to protect Avelica-González from deportation is through the U visa that he and his family applied for back in March. Victims of crime and their relatives can apply for this visa. However, lawyers have not disclosed what kind of crime the Avelica family was a victim of.
As the family waits for ICE’s response, they have been speaking up on behalf other immigrant families who are going through similar situations. “I would tell him [Trump] to have compassion because immigrants come here in search for a better life and their family. They don’t come here for trouble,” Fatima said.
Activists and organizers are encouraging people to pick up the phone and call the local ICE offices to ask them to release Avelica-González. “We want individuals to donate to the funded justice campaign and to call their local representatives,” Jennifer Cuevas said during an interview. Cuevas represents Fatima’s school, Academia Avance public charter school in Highland Park.
The school has partnered with other charter schools and organizations to form a coalition that will educate and train teachers and personnel to help students deal with this kind of situations.
“Students are concerned and stressed out. At lunch break, they come to the office to call their parents to make sure they are okay,” Cuevas said.
As for Avelica-González, MacLean said that “he’s been struggling medically because he suffers from diabetes. And he’s not getting the treatment he’s used to.” But despite that, “he has been staying strong and inspired by the all the community support.”
“He tells me to be strong and follow my dreams and not to give up,” Fatima said, since she is able to talk to her father every day via phone.
“We want to remind people that this is not over. We won’t stop until Rómulo is free,” activist and organizer David Abud, who has been helping the Avelica family, told Latino Rebels
The family plans to go visit Avelica-González this Saturday. According to Fatima, they can only visit their father every two weeks for one hour.
María Camila Montañez is a journalism student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s Spanish-language program. She is originally from Colombia and tweets from @mariacmontanez.
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