Supporters Join Family Fighting Deportation of Father of Four

Just days before their father could be deported, his four daughters offered heartfelt, and at times tearful, pleas for him to be allowed to remain in the United States.

"Let him be with us. Release him to his family. We need him and he needs us," said Brenda Avelica, 24. She's the oldest daughter of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, 49, a Mexican national who lived in the United States a quarter century before immigration officials took him into custody on Feb. 28. 

All four daughters spoke Tuesday afternoon at a news conference with supporters that at times became more like a rally, bursting into such chants as "Free Romulo," and "We won't stop till Romulo is free." They gathered  in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles, across Sixth Street from the federal immigration court which affirmed the deportation order for him.

Immigrations agents stopped and arrested Avelica as he was driving his second youngest daughter to middle school in Highland park, and right after he had dropped off his youngest at another school.

Cellphone video of the arrest went viral and brought the case national attention. It had been recorded by daughter Fatima from the back seat of the car.

The case has become a lightning rod for opponents of the stricter immigration enforcement enacted by the Trump Administration, and is being watched as well by those who favor it.

"Everybody empathizes with the position some people are in, in this country," said Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, known as FAIR.  "But we also have to hold people accountable." Mehlman said Avelica "created this situation."

FAIR is concerned about "disarray" in the White House, but believes the administration has sent a message it is "more serious" about immigration, evident in decreased illegal border crossings, Mehlman said.  

The deportation order for Avelica had been issued in 2013, citing outstanding traffic cases, including an alleged DUI. Since Avelica's arrest, his attorney settled those cases with pleas to misdemeanors, and is seeking reconsideration of the deportation order.

"We're prepared to fight this all the way through," said Alan Diamante, Avelica's attorney, asserting that problems with previous legal representation contributed to the situation in which he now finds himself.

A second avenue is also being pursued, Diamonte confirmed.  Avelica and his wife have applied for what are known as U Visas, which were created to enable crime victims to remain in the country to cooperate with law enforcement. Citing privacy rights, the attorney declined to reveal details of how a family member had been victimized.

However, Congress set a cap on the number of U visas that can be issued in a year, and there is a deep backlog, and his attorney is concerned it may not be issued in time.

A stay preventing Avelica's deportation was dismissed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in June, effective Saturday.

Diamonte previously had sought a new stay, but was told application cannot be made while one is still in effect. So he intends to file for a new stay Monday, the same day he also expects to hear from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) whether it intends to proceed with Avelica's deportation.

Letters urging ICE to grant Avelica a stay having been sent by a number of local elected officials, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

"Criminals and those who should be deported are in the White House," City Councilman Gil Cedillo said to applause at the rally.

ICE does not comment on pending U Visa applications, and declined to discuss what action -- if any -- will be taken on Avelica's case Monday.

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