Romulo Avelica Gonzalez is a free man – at least for now. A federal immigration judge granted the Mexican-born immigrant bond but not before attorneys for the federal government argued against it.
In a hearing Wednesday held inside the Adelanto Detention Facility, attorney Christina Marquez argued that Avelica is a flight risk, pointing to three times he was charged with crimes and missing court dates each time. Avelica's attorney, Alan Diamante, refuted that, though and said because Avelica's criminal convictions of receiving stolen property in 1998 and a 2008 DUI were vacated in June, his criminal record should be set aside.
Avelica was arrested by ICE agents in Lincoln Heights on Feb. 28. He was between school drop-offs of his two youngest daughters. The youngest, 13-year-old Fatima, recorded the cellphone video that would become an international viral video.
Diamante said he tried to negotiate the terms of Avelica's bond with Marquez, who opted instead to put the decision entirely in the hands of the judge. The judge asked Avelica a series of questions ranging from his history in the United States to the ages of his five children, four of whom are American-born.
When Marquez argued Avelica would be a flight risk, Diamante pointed out that Avelica has lived in his LA apartment for the last 22 years, at an address the federal government was well aware of.
Marquez requested a bond of no less than $7,500 but Judge Amy T. Lee set the amount at $6,000. By 2 p.m. that bond was paid, allowing for Avelica to walk out a free man after 6 p.m.
Outside the detention center, Avelica's daughters spoke about the success of today.
"I feel happy and anxious that I'll finally have my dad back with me," Fatima said, saying she sees her cell phone video now as a way of sharing her father's story. She says the family's been in pieces without him.
"It makes me feel sad because he gave all, he risked everything just to make us have what we need," she said.
Daughter Brenda Avelica thanked supporters and read a statement from her dad: "I have gained strength from all who have stood alongside me these passed months. I have courage and a new calling having been six months detained and alongside many who are still fighting for their freedom."
Earlier this month the Board of Immigration Appeals stayed Avelica's deportation and overturned a prior deportation order. He has a pending U-Visa application related to a crime his wife suffered and the BIA ordered the immigration judge to reconsider his application for cancellation of removal.
"We are hopeful the Court will administratively close his case and allow him to stay in the country with work authorization until he is granted lawful, permanent residency," Diamante said.
The Avelica family will hold a noon rally outside the Hall of Justice in downtown LA on Thursday where Avelica himself is expected to make his first public comments.
His daughter's school in Lincoln Heights, Avance Learning Academy, is planning a special Friday morning assembly for the family with a community celebration later in the afternoon.