Two fa­thers on front lines of de­por­ta­tion

L.A. man de­tained af­ter drop­ping his daugh­ter off at school gets a re­prieve.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Andrea Castillo

An im­mi­gra­tion ap­peals court this week threw out the fi­nal de­por­ta­tion or­der for Ro­mulo Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez, who was de­tained in late Fe­bru­ary min­utes af­ter he dropped his daugh­ter off at school in Lin­coln Heights.

His lawyer said the case will be kicked back to the lo­cal im­mi­gra­tion court that ini­tially or­dered that he be de­ported. That means Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez, 49, is still in de­por­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings, but it could take years for a judge to en­ter a new de­ci­sion.

An of­fi­cial with U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment said the agency can no longer com­ment on Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez’s case be­cause of his pend­ing U visa ap­pli­ca­tion.

Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez, a Mex­i­can cit­i­zen, has lived in the United States for 25 years. ICE agents ar­rested him Feb. 28, min­utes af­ter he dropped off his daugh­ter Yu­leni, 12, at school. An­other daugh­ter, Fa­tima, now 14, sobbed as she recorded cell­phone video of the en­counter, which went vi­ral.

The case drew na­tional at­ten­tion, with crit­ics cit­ing it as an ex­am­ple of Pres­i­dent Trump’s ag­gres­sive and

sweeping stance on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. Mean­while, sup­port­ers of Trump’s hard­line ap­proach em­pha­size that im­mi­grants like Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez broke the law by com­ing to the coun­try il­le­gally and fur­ther un­der­mined any claim to live in the U.S. when they com­mit­ted crimes, how­ever mi­nor.

Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez has a bond hear­ing Aug. 30, said his lead at­tor­ney, Alan Dia­mante. He could be re­leased that day while his at­tor­neys con­tinue to fight his im­mi­gra­tion case.

“These five months have felt like five years,” Avel­i­caGon­za­lez said in an in­ter­view Aug. 4 at the Ade­lanto De­ten­tion Fa­cil­ity in San Bernardino County.

Dia­mante said the de­por­ta­tion or­der was va­cated Mon­day by the Board of Im­mi­gra­tion Ap­peals, the high­est ad­min­is­tra­tive body in the coun­try’s im­mi­gra­tion court sys­tem.

In June, lawyers set­tled Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez’s decades-old mis­de­meanor con­vic­tions — for driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence and for re­ceiv­ing stolen car tags — that prompted the de­por­ta­tion or­der lead­ing to his ar­rest. He pleaded guilty to lesser ve­hi­cle code vi­o­la­tions.

“When we started with him, he had two sig­nif­i­cant crimes and a re­moval or­der,” Dia­mante said. “Now all that is gone.”

Cer­tain crim­i­nal con­vic­tions

‘When we started with him, he had two sig­nif­i­cant crimes and a re­moval or­der. Now all that is gone.’ — Alan Dia­mante, at­tor­ney for Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez

can place im­mi­grants in de­por­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings. A state law went into ef­fect in Jan­uary that al­lows im­mi­grants to have their con­vic­tions va­cated if they were not ad­e­quately ad­vised at the time of their guilty or no­con­test pleas.

Af­ter be­ing ar­rested in 2008 for DUI, Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez was placed in de­por­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings.

He ap­plied for a can­cel­la­tion of re­moval, a ben­e­fit that leads to cit­i­zen­ship. But an im­mi­gra­tion judge de­nied it in 2013, say­ing he was in­el­i­gi­ble be­cause of his con­vic­tion for re­ceipt of the stolen car tags.

In 2014, Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez filed pa­per­work for an ap­peal with some­one he thought was an im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney. The man ran off with Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez’s pa­per­work and pay­ment.

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 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 of 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 said he would ask an im­mi­gra­tion judge to tem­po­rar­ily stop Avel­i­caGon­za­lez’s de­por­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings while his U visa ap­pli­ca­tion re­mains pend­ing. If the judge de­cides not to stop the de­por­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings, Dia­mante said, the court will again take up his re­quest for can­cel­la­tion of re­moval. If the judge again de­nies the can­cel­la­tion, the court could issue an­other de­por­ta­tion or­der.

Re­gard­less, Dia­mante said, any de­ci­sion could take years.

The back­log of cases pend­ing at im­mi­gra­tion courts around the U.S. hit 115,000 in June, ac­cord­ing to the Trans­ac­tional Records Ac­cess Clear­ing­house at Syra­cuse Univer­sity.

Mar­cus Yam Los An­ge­les Times

RO­MULO AVEL­ICA-GON­ZA­LEZ at the Ade­lanto De­ten­tion Fa­cil­ity. His de­por­ta­tion or­der was tossed out this week. His case re­turns to a lower court, but it could take years for a judge to en­ter a new de­ci­sion.

Mar­cus Yam Los An­ge­les Times

“THESE FIVE months have felt like five years,” Ro­mulo Avel­ica-Gon­za­lez said last week. Ad­vo­cates have held up his case as an ex­am­ple of Pres­i­dent Trump’s ag­gres­sive and sweeping pol­icy on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

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