On February 28, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez had just dropped one of his four daughters off at school in Los Angeles' Highland Park neighborhood when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents stopped him, pulled him out of the car, and arrested him—all in plain view of his wife, and 12-year-old daughter, who were still in the car.
The incident was caught on film by Avelica-Gonzalez's daughter, who can be heard sobbing as her father is handcuffed and taken away.
"My dad dropped off my first sister and then when he turned around, they turned on their light," Avelica-Gonzalez's 19-year-old daughter Jocelyn told LAist. "My dad was really scared. He didn't want to pull over, but he did. As soon as he did, one car went in front of his truck and one in back of his truck. They took him out and they arrested him. My little sister was still in the car, she's 13. My mom was also there."
Avelica-Gonzalez, a 48-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico, had been living in the United States for 25 years, and reportedly worked in a local Mexican restaurant. All four of his daughters are American, and are now left wondering whether their father will be deported from the country he calls home.
In response to the arrest, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network immediately leapt into action, organizing a petition which called for ICE not to deport Avelica-Gonzalez, who had a near-decade-old DUI conviction which put him at risk for being kicked out of the United States. Undocumented immigrant rights group the Immigrant Youth Coalition put out a similar request, urging supporters to contact ICE's LA field office and request a stay of deportation for Avelica-Gonzalez.
"Basically what ICE has told officials is that this man has prior convictions, as a way of essentially throwing him under the bus," NDLON attorney Emi McLean told LAist.
By that evening, however, the family was reportedly told Avelica-Gonzalez had been granted a temporary stay, and would not be immediately deported.
Nevertheless, his arrest comes amidst a rising tide of ICE detentions and deportations—part of President Donald Trump's ongoing crackdown against immigrant communities. Just day's after Avelica-Gonzalez's detention, DACA recipient Daniela Vargas was arrested just moments after speaking at a Jackson, MS, press conference about her life as an undocumented immigrant.
Avelica-Gonzales currently remains in ICE custody. According to NDLON, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis have reached out to the agency to prevent his deportation.