Romulo Avelica granted Emergency Stay of Removal from Board of Immigration Appeals

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Community Has Called for an End to ICE’s Efforts to Deport LA Father of Four US Citizen Children Arrested While Dropping Daughters Off at School

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (August 7, 2017):  More than five months after ICE arrested Romulo Avelica while he was dropping his daughters off at school on February 28, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) today granted an emergency stay of removal, preventing his deportation while the BIA reviews his case. The Ninth Circuit had stayed his deportation from the date of his arrest, but that stay was due to expire today.

“This is my country; I have roots and family here. And today I am grateful beyond words that the court has prevented ICE from deporting me,” said Romulo Avelica, speaking from Adelanto Detention Center in San Bernardino County. “Every day I wake up knowing that I must be at least half as strong as my children have been in their fight for my freedom. I have gained strength from all who have stood alongside me these past months–the most difficult period of my life. I will never give up fighting for my rights, and for the rights of other immigrants.”

“The BIA granted an emergency stay of removal for Romulo, preventing ICE from deporting him,” said Alan Diamante, an immigration attorney for Romulo Avelica. “We are now asking the BIA to reconsider its prior decision and recognize that Mr. Avelica should have a right to stay in the United States. ICE should release Romulo immediately.”

“These last months have been very hard for my dad and for us. My life changed the day that ICE arrested my dad while he was taking me to school,” said Fatima Avelica, Mr. Avelica’s 13-year-old daughter who video-taped Mr. Avelica’s February 28 arrest. “Now that the court has recognized that he should not be deported, I hope that ICE will release him from detention. He should not be imprisoned just for trying to live a better life and stay with his family.”

Mr. Avelica’s arrest has served as an embodiment of the painful reality of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. Mr. Avelica, a father of four U.S. citizen children, and a cook at the time of his arrest, has lived in L.A. for nearly thirty years. Dozens of elected officials–from City Hall to Capitol Hill–and other community leaders have rallied around him and his family, calling for Mr. Avelica’s release and a stay of his deportation.

“Our district is dealing with the aftermath of having ICE raids in our community. Not only is Romulo’s family living with fear, stress and anxiety, but so is everyone else who has followed this case. We are still hopeful that Romulo will be released, as he is a productive member of our community and the sole breadwinner for his family. His deportation would be detrimental to his family and unnerving to the entire community. We remain united and await his return home with his family where he belongs,” said Councilmember Gil Cedillo.

“There is a reason why so much attention has been paid to this case. Romulo’s arrest, incarceration, and threatened deportation symbolize the moral crisis facing our country. But at the same time, his and his family’s courageous defense has united and inspired countless people,” said Emi MacLean, an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and part of Mr. Avelica’s legal team. “Above all, the lesson here is this: we must not look away; to witness what we saw through his daughter’s eyes and to do nothing normalizes this brutality. Every case must be contested. No one is disposable. When we join together, we win.”

Ricardo Mireles, the Executive Director of Academia Avance, the school attended by two of Mr. Avelica’s daughters, said: “Today the BIA action renews optimism that Romulo Avelica can once again be present soon to support Yuleni and Fatima’s goals to graduate from college. The huge public outcry has for a moment drowned out the hatred espoused by this White House. Today Romulo stands for all immigrants as a champion of hope. And this victory today must motivate us to work on behalf of other immigrants facing the same threats.”

Gil Cedillo, Los Angeles City Council Member and Chair of the Immigration Committee, whose district include the Avelica family, said: “Our district is dealing with the aftermath of having ICE raids in our community. Not only is Romulo’s family living with fear, stress and anxiety, but so is everyone else who has followed this case. We are still hopeful that Romulo will be released, as he is a productive member of our community and the sole breadwinner for his family. His deportation would be detrimental to his family and unnerving to the entire community. We remain united and await his return home with his family where he belongs.”


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Statement Regarding Romulo Avelica

Contacts:
June 21, 2017
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – On Friday, June 16, without opposition from the City Attorney and on the ground of a legal invalidity, a judge granted the request of Romulo Avelica to vacate his 1998 misdemeanor conviction for receipt of stolen property. Mr. Avelica is an undocumented father of four U.S. citizen children and long-time Los Angeles resident whose arrest by immigration agents while dropping his daughters at school on February 28, 2017 sparked widespread outrage. The conviction, which stemmed from an incident involving Mr. Avelica’s display of a vehicle registration sticker that he had not purchased, had previously led federal immigration authorities to hold him ineligible for certain forms of relief from deportation. As part of the vacatur, Mr. Avelica re-pled to a lesser vehicle code violation in relation to the incident. A judge had previously vacated Mr. Avelica’s only other misdemeanor conviction on grounds of legal invalidity, for which Mr. Avelica also re-pled to a lesser vehicle code violation.
Mr. Avelica appreciates the City Attorney’s efforts, consistent with state law, to limit the unjust immigration consequences of Mr. Avelica’s conviction.
Steve Escovar, attorney for Mr. Avelica, stated, “The City Attorney has demonstrated that reasonable efforts by prosecutors can help to keep families intact and avoid the severe penalty of deportation which can result from certain criminal convictions.”
Mr. Avelica’s lawyers have moved for the Board of Immigration Appeals to reconsider or reopen his immigration case, in part in response to Friday’s decision. Mr. Avelica’s lawyers are also asking that Immigration and Customs Enforcement stay his deportation and release him from detention while he pursues his efforts to reopen his case.