SoCal Father arrested by immigration authorities released after 6 months in custody

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After 6 months of waiting, wondering and hoping, you could understand it if Romulo Avelica's daughters were emotional when their father was released from a Federal detention center Wednesday night.

"It's not over'' he said, saying he's anxious to go back to church and work.

One of his four daughters simply said ''I'm so happy to have him back.'' He became, unwittingly perhaps, one of the symbols of the Trump administration renewed emphasis on deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal pasts which Avelica has.

For many, that's the end of the discussion. But his convictions were for a misdemeanor receiving stolen property and a DUI, he has since had them ''vacated'' by pleading to lesser charges under new legal provisions, and he doesn't believe, nor does his family, attorney, or supporters that he is any kind of threat.


News crews, family members, attorneys, and supporters of Romulo Avelica all gathered outside the Adelanto Detention Facility West in anticipation of his release.

The married father of four, a Mexican national, who works as a cook in an LA restaurant, was taken into custody by ICE agents in February as part of their ongoing ''enforcement and removal'' efforts.

That is the program, in effect since ICE was formed, targeting undocumented immigrants with criminal pasts. Avelica and his attorney argued his old, misdemeanors, since ''vacated'' by pleading to lesser charges, should have invalidated his deportation order.

Essentially, the court agreed, but he's been in custody until a judge agreed that he deserved to post bond. He'll be out until his case is schedule to be heard again in front of the original immigration judge.

It won't happen fast. The backlog is some 600,000 cases.

The decision to allow Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez to be freed on $6,000 bond does not mean the end to his possible deportation, but it will allow him to return to his family while his case proceeds.

``I have gained strength from all who have stood alongside me these past months,'' Avelica-Gonzalez said in a statement released by supporters. ``I have courage and a new calling having spent six months detained and alongside many who are still fighting for their freedom. I will savor every minute with my family. I will fight for my right to remain with them and in this country.

And I will never again be able to look away from how deportations are tearing families apart.''

Earlier this month, the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed a deportation order against Avelica-Gonzalez. His case still needs to be reviewed by an immigration judge to consider if he should be permitted to remain in the United States, where he has lived illegally for nearly three decades. It's
unclear how long that process might take.

His relatives and supporters expressed relief after Wednesday morning's bond hearing at the Adelanto Detention Center in San Bernardino County, and said they hope Avelica-Gonzalez will be released by day's end.

Avelica-Gonzalez has been in custody since his February arrest. He had just dropped off his 12-year-old daughter at school in Lincoln Heights, and a short time later, his 14-year-old daughter, Fatima -- who was in his car -- cried as she filmed her father being taken into custody by immigration authorities in Highland Park.

Immigration activists decried the arrest as a symbol of what they consider an overly aggressive crackdown on immigrants living in the country illegally during the administration of President Donald Trump.

Supporters of Avelica-Gonzalez, a 49-year-old father of four, said the original deportation order arose from a pair of misdemeanor convictions against him dating back 20 years. Attorneys said those convictions were vacated in June, and he should be permitted to remain in the country.

They noted that his four daughters are all U.S. citizens, as is his grandson.

``We hope that the court will consider all of the evidence and allow him to stay in this country,'' Avelica-Gonzalez's attorney, Alan Diamante, said. ``This family has suffered enough.''

An immigration judge will now rehear the whole matter, but that may take years. In the meantime, he's out on bond.

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