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New strategy may help fight deportation of father who was picked up outside school by ICE agents

Mike Szymanski | June 5, 2017

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Fatima took the video of her father being arrested after he dropped off her sister at school.

The legal team for the father who has been held since Feb. 28 by immigration officials after his arrest outside a Los Angeles charter school is trying a new strategy, relying on a new law to wipe out old convictions.

The father, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, was born in Mexico and has lived in the United States for more than 25 years. He was arrested by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after dropping off his 12-year-old daughter at a school in Lincoln Heights. Another daughter, Fatima, caught the arrest on her phone, and the video went viral.

The Los Angeles Times reported that lawyers are using a new state law to get rid of decades-old misdemeanor convictions. The father had a DUI in 2008 and a conviction for receipt of stolen property after getting a faulty vehicle registration. Undocumented immigrants were not allowed to get drivers licenses in California before 2015, which is a requirement for registration.

The new legal strategy includes:

  • Using a state law that went into effect in January that can vacate an immigrant’s conviction if they were not properly advised at the time of pleading guilty or no contest.
  • The father’s DUI case was vacated last month by a judge, which may help him remain in the U.S.
  • At the time of the 1998 stolen property conviction, the father may have pleaded to a lesser charge, the equivalent of an infraction, if he had been fully advised of his rights.

Alan Diamante, an attorney for Avelica-Gonzalez, said his client didn’t understand the consequences when he took the plea deal from the public defender’s office at the time. Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer wrote a brief saying that there is no legal basis to support the father’s request to rescind the conviction.

Daughters Fatima and Yuleni attended a rally in March after a coalition of charter schools announced joining a legal challenge against President Trump’s executive order to withhold federal money from “sanctuary jurisdictions” including LA Unified. Yuleni attends the Academia Avance charter school in the district.


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