L.A. father could be de­ported next week

Man, in U.S. il­le­gally, was ar­rested af­ter drop­ping off a daugh­ter at school.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By An­drea Castillo

The fam­ily of Ro­mulo Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez, an im­mi­grant in the coun­try il­le­gally whose case has drawn in­ter­na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion, was dev­as­tated to learn that he could be de­ported as early as next week.

Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez, 49, has been held at a fed­eral de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity since Feb. 28, when im­mi­gra­tion agents ar­rested him min­utes af­ter he dropped off his 12-yearold daugh­ter at her Lin­coln Heights school.

Lawyers for Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez in June set­tled the two decades-old mis­de­meanor con­vic­tions — for driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence and for receiving stolen car tags — that prompted his ar­rest. He pleaded guilty to lesser ve­hi­cle code vi­o­la­tions.

U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment of­fi­cials had cited a de­por­ta­tion or­der based on the for­mer con­vic­tions as the rea­son for pick­ing him up in Fe­bru­ary. His lawyers had hoped that with the changes, ICE would grant his re­lease and can­cel

de­por­ta­tion or­der.

Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez, a Mex­i­can ci­ti­zen, has lived in the United States for 25 years. ICE agents pulled him over and de­tained him six blocks from the school where he had dropped off one of his daugh­ters. Another daugh­ter in the car with him, now 14, sobbed as she recorded cell­phone video of the en­counter.

Video of the fam­ily’s story went vi­ral and has at­tracted in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion.

Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez’s lawyers have pe­ti­tioned the Board of Im­mi­gra­tion Ap­peals to con­sider reopen­ing his im­mi­gra­tion case as a re­sult of the con­vic­tion changes. He is be­ing held at the Ade­lanto De­ten­tion Fa­cil­ity in San Bernardino County.

When ICE agents de­tained Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez, his at­tor­neys filed an emer­gency stay of re­moval with the U.S. 9th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals, pre­vent­ing his im­me­di­ate de­por­ta­tion. The court re­viewed the case and dis­missed the stay in June.

The stay will ex­pire Aug. 5, said Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez’s im­mi­gra­tion lawyer, Alan Dia­mante. He could be de­ported as early as Aug. 7.

“If there’s no 9th Cir­cuit stay, there could be noth­ing keep­ing him here,” Dia­mante said. “And that’s our con­cern.”

In late March, Avel­i­caGon­za­lez and his wife, Norma, sub­mit­ted ap­pli­ca­tions for U visas, which are avail­able to vic­tims of crime and their im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­bers, based on a crime that Norma was the vic­tim of in De­cem­ber 2016. Dia­mante de­clined to pro­vide de­tails about the crime out of re­spect for the fam­ily and any po­ten­tial fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The num­ber of peo­ple with pend­ing U visa ap­pli­ca­tions has sky­rock­eted from 21,000 in 2009 to nearly 170,000 as of March. Congress has set a cap grant­ing 10,000 U visas each year. Ap­pli­cants on the wait­ing list are granted de­fer­rals of their de­por­ta­tion and al­lowed to ap­ply for work per­mits.

Dia­mante, who took up Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez’s case pro bono, said he should be re­his leased while he awaits the fate of his ap­pli­ca­tion.

“U visa ap­pli­cants should not be liv­ing in fear that they’ll be de­ported while they’re wait­ing for their cases to be ad­ju­di­cated,” he said.

In late June, Dia­mante filed a pe­ti­tion for another stay of Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez’s de­por­ta­tion with the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, which over­sees ICE, know­ing that the 9th Cir­cuit stay would be lifted. The re­quest was pri­mar­ily based on his pend­ing U visa ap­pli­ca­tion and the changes to his crim­i­nal his­tory.

Home­land Se­cu­rity de­nied the re­quest, say­ing it had been filed pre­ma­turely. Dia­mante plans to re­file Aug. 7, once the 9th Cir­cuit stay has been lifted. If Home­land Se­cu­rity again de­nies his re­quest, he’ll file a last-ditch emer­gency stay of de­por­ta­tion with the Board of Im­mi­gra­tion Ap­peals.

But Dia­mante wor­ries that if Home­land Se­cu­rity de­nies his re­quest too late in the day, ICE could move to de­port Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez be­fore he has time to file with and re­ceive a re­sponse from the im­mi­gra­tion ap­peals board.

“We’re just hop­ing that the gov­ern­ment will do the right thing,” he said.

Wally Skalij Los An­ge­les Times

FA­TIMA AVEL­ICA, cen­ter, at a news con­fer­ence in March. She recorded video of her father’s Feb. 28 ar­rest by ICE of­fi­cers af­ter he dropped off her sis­ter at school.

Ir­fan Khan Los An­ge­les Times

NORMA AVEL­ICA-GON­ZA­LEZ, cen­ter, wife of Ro­mulo Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez, joins oth­ers in sup­port of her hus­band out­side Los An­ge­les County Su­pe­rior Court.

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