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Father Detained By ICE While Dropping Daughter At School Could Be Deported Next Week

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Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez and two of his daughters. (Photo courtesy of NDLON)
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A Los Angeles father who was arrested by federal immigration authorities while dropping his daughters off at school could be deported as soon as next week, according to advocates for the family.

Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, 49, became the subject of international headlines after he was detained in February while dropping his daughters off at school in Highland Park. Avelica-Gonzalez's then 13-year-old daughter was still in the car at the time of his arrest, and she filmed the incident in a heart-wrenching video that soon went viral. Avelica-Gonzalez, who is originally from Mexico, has lived in the U.S. for more than half of his life and is the father of four U.S.-born children. He has been held at an immigrant detention center in Adelanto, California since February 28. In June, lawyers for Avelica-Gonzalez settled two old misdemeanor convictions that had originally prompted his detainment. The misdemeanor convictions (one of which is from two decades ago; the other is almost a decade old) had made him ineligible for certain forms of deportation relief. The Department of Homeland Security had also cited the convictions, which have now been pled down to lesser vehicle code violations, as a reason for making him a deportation priority.

After Avelica-Gonzalez was arrested in February, his lawyers filed for an emergency stay of removal with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to prevent his immediate deportation. The L.A. Times reports that that stay was reviewed and dismissed by the court in June, and that it will expire on August 5. The expiration of the stay means that Avelica-Gonzalez could be deported as soon as Monday, August 7.

“If there’s no 9th Circuit stay, there could be nothing keeping him here,” Avelica-Gonzalez’s immigration lawyer, Alan Diamante, told the L.A. Times. “And that’s our concern.”

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According to Mireles, Avelica-Gonzalez and his wife are also in the process of applying for U visas, which are granted to victims or witnesses of crime (and their immediate family members) who assist law enforcement in their investigations. An application for the visa, based on a December 2016 crime that Avelica-Gonzalez's wife was the victim of, was submitted in March.

"We're afraid for what will happen on August 7th," Ricardo Mireles, executive director of Academia Avance, a charter school in Highland Park attended by two of Avelica-Gonzalez's daughters, told LAist. Mireles has acted as an advocate for the family throughout the process.

According to Mireles, Avelica-Gonzalez, who works as a food preparer at a Mexican restaurant, is the sole breadwinner for his family. By Wednesday, U.S. taxpayers will have spent approximately $25,000 to keep Avelica-Gonzalez in the Adelanto Detention Center, a privately-owned facility that is operated, like many other immigrant detention facilities, by GEO Group, the nation's second largest for-profit prison operator. (The ACLU estimates that adult immigration detention costs $161 per person per day).

"Is ICE [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] going to abide by their 2009 memo that typically provides protections for U visa applicants?" Mireles asked. "If this is a president who says we want to protect victims of crime, here you go. Here's a family, protect them," Mireles continued.

A spokesperson for the agency told LAist that ICE was currently unable to comment on the case.

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The Avelica-Gonzalez family will be holding a rally on Romulo's behalf on Tuesday afternoon in Pershing Square. "We're calling for people to come together in support of Romulo and his family and to make a loud public outcry to ICE," Mireles said.

The rally in support of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez will be held on Tuesday, August 1 at 3 p.m. in Pershing Square. Pershing Square is located at 532 S Olive Street in downtown Los Angeles.

Previously: This Is What It's Like When A Father Of 4 Is Detained By ICE While Dropping His Daughters Off At School
Why Is The City Attorney Taking A Harsh Stance Against An L.A. Father Fighting Deportation?
Decades-Old Criminal Case Against Father Detained By ICE Settled, Paving Way For His Potential Release From Detention