Immigrant advocacy groups in Los Angeles are decrying the arrest of an undocumented family man Feb. 28 while on his way to drop his 13-year-old daughter off at school.
During a protest Monday at Pershing Square in downtown L.A., they demanded the release of the father of four U.S.-born daughters and he has lived in the country for 25 years.
Rómulo Avelica-González, 48, had just dropped off his 12-year-old daughter at a school in Lincoln Heights and was on his way to drop his other daughter off at Academia Avance, a charter school in Highland Park, when he was stopped and taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in two unmarked vehicles.
The daughter, Fatima Avelica, caught the arrest on video and can be heard sobbing as ICE agents take her father away. Avelica-González’ wife was also left in the vehicle.
The video shows ICE agents wearing jackets marked with the word ‘Police.’
Monday’s protest was organized by Academia Avance and the National Day Laborers Network (NDLON). The school’s executive director, Ricardo Mireles, said the arrest has shaken families at the school and his teachers are now helping students with parents who are undocumented and at risk of deportation put together a family reunification plan in the event that happens.
They are also advising them of their rights, including the right to an attorney.
“The arrest was very close to the school and with this act, immigration agents are challenging the community. We cannot allow ICE to come to our neighborhoods and spread terror amongst us,” Emi MacLean, attorney for the National Day Laborers Network (NDLON) told EFE news service.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia told EFE Avelica’s arrest took place during a vehicle stop, about half a mile from one of the schools.
Avelica has “multiple prior criminal convictions, including a DUI in 2009, as well an outstanding order of removal dating back to 2014,” according to an ICE statement.
MacLean warned that more and more immigration officers are showing up near schools and public places such as hospitals and churches.
“What would have happened if Mr. Avelica were driving alone, where is his daughter? It’s concerning that this is taking place in Los Angeles and throughout the country,” he said.
Last week in Texas, 16 undocumented immigrants with no criminal backgrounds were arrested at two restaurants during a raid.
In Georgia, ICE agents took an undocumented man from his bed and arrested him while looking for another individual.
Brenda Avelica, one of the Avelica’s four daughters, said immigration authorities are destroying their family. Her father was the family’s sole income earner and his arrest has left them without financial resources, she said.
Avelica emigrated to the United States in the 90’s and has a current deportation order and a DUI record.
The family claims Avelica was taken advantage by a “notario,” a public notary posing as an immigration lawyer who promised to settle his immigration status, but did not follow through and took off with his money.
“They are labeling all undocumented people as criminals. This is an example of the new Trump policies and its actions. We cannot be fooled; we have to resist and condemn these arrests,” insisted Pablo Alvarado, NDLON’s director.
Avelica remains in ICE custody and the family and activists say they will continue to demand his release.
Information from EFE was used in this report.