Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez was dropping off his daughters at school in Los Angeles on Tuesday when he was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His 13-year-old daughter, Fatima, sobbed as she recorded her father being handcuffed in front of her and her mother.
Avelica-Gonzalez, 48, who has been living in the United States for over 20 years, had just finished dropping off his 12-year-old daughter in the Highland Park neighborhood when he was detained. His 19-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, who was at work during the incident, told the LAist that a car had been following her father since the moment he left the house.
“My dad dropped off my first sister and then when he turned around, they turned on their light,” Jocelyn said. “My dad was really scared. He didn’t want to pull over, but he did. As soon as he did, one car went in front of his truck and one in back of his truck. They took him out and they arrested him.”
In the video, Fatima can be heard loudly weeping as her father is detained by men wearing jackets and vests marked “POLICE.” (Los Angeles officials have asked ICE agents to stop identifying themselves as such.) Her mother asks one of the officers in Spanish how to proceed before turning to her daughter and telling her: “Don’t cry, honey. Don’t cry. We have to be strong.”
Avelica-Gonzalez, the father of four U.S. citizens, was detained over a DUI conviction nearly 10 years ago and a two decade-old incident involving an incorrect registration sticker, according to a local ABC affiliate.
“It’s really hard what we’re going through,” Avelica-Gonzalez’s daughter Brenda told KABC. “I never thought we’d actually go through something like this. It’s terrible to feel and see your family being broken apart.”
Emi MacLean, staff attorney for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told the New York Daily News the family had a “small victory” when Avelica-Gonzalez was granted a temporary stay, which means he would not be immediately deported.
MacLean believes arrests like Avelica-Gonzalez’s amid the recent immigration crackdown are more for show than anything else.
“I think we’ve seen actions that seem intended to create a climate of fear,” she told the newspaper in reference to the Trump administration’s immigration directives. “We’ve seen from this administration a real commitment to mob up immigration enforcement in a way that is totally destructive to families and communities.”