In February, Los Angeles resident and father of four Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez was dropping one of his daughters off at school when he was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. Now, after five months in detainment, Romulo, a restaurant employee who has lived and worked in the U.S. for two decades, is set to be deported as early as August 7th. If it goes through, he will become yet another father torn from his family due to our new government’s immigration crackdown.
Upon Romulo’s arrest, the ICE officials cited a deportation order filed in 2013 that was based on his previous convictions of driving under the influence and receiving stolen car tags. Romulo’s lawyers were able to settle his two-decade old convictions in June and were hopeful ICE officers would drop their intention to deport. Officials, however, still seem determined to move forward. Romulo’s attorneys also filed an emergency stay of removal with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to prevent his deportation, but that request was denied and is set to expire on August 5.
One of Romulo’s daughters, Fatima, filmed her father’s February arrest with her phone and the video, which shows her weeping as her father is being taken away, quickly sparked national outrage. Romulo’s attorneys hope that if enough people speak up in support, ICE may reverse their position and let Romulo stay. Protests have taken place on Romulo’s behalf since he was arrested, with the most recent taking place yesterday. But even as people stand with Romulo’s wife and children to fight against his impending deportation, it’s not clear how effective any of it will be.
“I’m really scared; I’m really worried for him because I know that without him, our life is never going to be okay and without us his life is never going to be okay,” Romulo’s daughter, Brenda, said.
In the first six months of his administration, Donald Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration a top priority, promising to help restore America’s safety through stronger border security and mass deportation. But many feel the policies don’t take into account the families that are in danger of being torn apart. ICE has a policy against conducting activities at such so-called “sensitive locations” as schools and hospitals. But Romulo’s arrest six blocks away from the school, with children in the car, signals to some that the crackdown is only becoming intensified.