JUST IN: Father who was arrested by ICE agents outside daughter’s LA charter school is freed
Esmeralda Fabián Romero | August 30, 2017
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An immigration judge on Wednesday approved the release of Rómulo Avélica-González, who posted a $6,000 bond and was reunited with his family after he left an Adelanto detention facility.
Avélica-González’s case drew national attention after he was arrested while dropping off his 12-year-old daughter, Yuleni, at Los Angeles public charter school. Another daughter, Fátima, also a student at the school, caught the arrest on her phone and the video went viral.
Armando Carmona, a spokesperson for the Avélica family, told LA School Report he would be home in Los Angeles by the end of the day.
Avélica-González received the release order Wednesday morning during a scheduled hearing that was attended by his wife and children as well as supporters who gathered outside the court. He has been held for six months, since his February arrest by ICE officers outside his daughters’ Highland Park middle school, Academia Avance.
According to a statement by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), immigration judge Amy T. Lee recognized that Avélica-González merits “discretionary release from custody” because of his longstanding ties to the community and critical ties to this country.
“I have gained strength from all who have stood alongside me these past months. I have courage and a new calling having spent six months detained and alongside many who are still fighting for their freedom,” sAvélica-González said immediately after his release order was granted, according to the news release.
“I will savor every minute with my family. I will fight for my right to remain with them and in this country. And I will never again be able to look away from how deportations are tearing families apart.”
Earlier this month, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ended his deportation order. One of his attorneys, Alan Diamante, said then that Avélica-González still had a pending immigration case that has been returned to a local immigration court, including his pending U visa application. Resolving the case could take years because of the immigration court proceedings backlog.
The U visa protects undocumented victims of violent crimes who cooperate with law enforcement. Avelica-González’s wife, Norma Avélica, was a victim of a crime that occurred in Los Angeles in 2016. If granted a U visa, she and her husband could remain in the country.
“Today is a new start for Rómulo and his family, but his case is not over. He continues to ask USCIS and the court for immigration relief,” said Diamante after today’s bond hearing. “We hope that the court will consider all of the evidence and allow him to stay in this country. This family has suffered enough.”
Avélica-González emigrated to this country 26 years ago from Nayarit, México. He had a DUI in 2008 and a conviction for receipt of stolen property after getting a faulty vehicle registration. Both misdemeanors were settled in June.
“We have all learned from Rómulo and his family, and these past six months, that we must not look away. To look away as families are being torn apart normalizes the brutality of mass deportation,” said Chris Newman, legal director of NDLON.
“I almost cannot believe that my father will be back home with us,” said Fátima Avélica in the news release. “This has been the most devastating six months of my life. But I have learned the power and strength of my family and community united. I will never unlearn that.”
According to Carmona, Avélica-González and his family are planning to attend a school assembly at Academia Avance on Friday morning, to thank the school community for the support he received during the past six months.
Ricardo Mireles, executive director of Academia Avance, said that “Rómulo Avélica is returning to where he belongs — home with his family to support his children’s goals to graduate from college and contribute to their community. And we all return even more motivated to continue the struggle for justice.”
*This article has been updated to correct the bond amount and to add his release.