Friends of the family of Rómulo Avélica González rally at LAPE Hollenbeck Station on March 2, 2017.

The family of a man detained this week by immigration agents near a Highland Park charter school gathered with friends and allies Thursday evening at the LAPD Hollenbeck station where their lawyer filed paperwork needed for a special visa.

Providing them support where several students from Academia Avance Charter School –some of them schoolmates of the man’s 13-year-old daughter, who shot a video of the moment her father was being taken away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

“We’re here to stand in solidarity with the family,” said school director Ricardo Mireles, who brought together nearly 25 people to show support for the family. Mireles said he wanted to get the word out that areas around schools cannot be considered safe spaces by people who may be vulnerable to detention because of their immigration status.

Rómulo Avélica González, 48, was detained Tuesday morning as he drove his two daughters to school along with his wife. According to published reports, they had already dropped off their 12-year-old and were headed towards a second Avance campus when they were stopped.

Jocelyn Avélica, the couple’s 19-year-old daughter, told LAist that the car that detained her father had been following the family since they left their home in Lincoln Heights.

“My dad dropped off my first sister and then when he turned around, they turned on their light,” she told the website. “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.”

The couple’s 13-year-old daughter, who was in the car, used her phone to shoot a video as ICE agents, wearing jackets that said “POLICE,” arrested her father. The girl can be heard sobbing throughout the video as her mother attempts to console her.

According to an ICE statement quoted by La Opinión, Avélica Gonzalez was detained because of “multiple prior convictions” including a 2009 DUI and a 2014 deportation order. The ICE statement said the arrest took place about half a mile from the school.

But Emi MacLean, an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) –an organization contacted by the man’s family after the arrest– told LAist that besides the DUI, the man’s other conviction had been “from over 20 years ago related to having bought a car that he did not realize had a registration sticker on it that did not belong on the car.”  

“If we allow this as a community to continue, then we create an environment where children are afraid to go to school, parents are afraid to drop their children off at school, and people are living in a culture of fear,”  MacLean said.

On Tuesday NDLON put the word out about Avélica Gonzalez’s arrest and asked allies to sign a petition asking ICE not to deport the man, a native of the Mexican state of Nayarit who has lived in the United States for 25 years and is the father of four daughters who were born here.

On Tuesday night, the family learned that the man had been granted a stay of deportation and that he was being taken to a detention center in Adelanto.

On Thursday, an attorney for the family said Avélica González was applying for a U Visa, a special visa given to victims of crime and their families who cooperated with investigating authorities. He said that someone in the man’s family had been a victim of a violent crime in 2016, but declined to give details.

Attorney Peter Aaron Greyshock said the application required a certification signed by a law enforcement agency, which is why he and the family submitted paperwork to the Hollenbeck station. He said he expected to receive the certification in one to two days.

Greyshock said the family had spoken with Avélica González and that he was “in good spirits and aware of the incredible support” his case had received.

Jocelyn, the man’s daughter, echoed the sentiment.  She said the support had been “amazing” and that the family was “very uplifted” by it. About the possibility of reuniting with her detained father, she said simply: “We’re very hopeful.”

Photo above: The lawyer for Rómulo Avélica González and the director of Academia Avance are joined by students of the charter schools and friends of the man’s family at LAPD Hollenbeck station on Thursday.

Antonio Mejías-Rentas

Antonio Mejías-Rentas is a Senior Editor at Boyle Heights Beat, where he mentors teenage journalists, manages the organization’s website and covers local issues. A veteran bilingual journalist, he's...

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