HIGHLAND PARK, LOS ANGELES -- While being dropped off at school with her sisters, 13-year-old Fatima Avelica recorded her undocumented father being picked up by agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez had been in the country for 20 years with four children, two of whom are grown.
The ICE officials, who wore police jackets, took the 48-year-old father into custody as he dropped his girls off at school in Highland Park on Tuesday.
"It's really hard what we're going through," Avelica-Gonzalez's daughter Brenda Avelica said. "I never thought we'd actually go through something like this. It's terrible to feel and see your family being broken apart."
Executive director of the Highland Park charter school Academia Avance, Ricardo Mireles, brought together about two dozen people to support the family.
"I think the impacts are going to come in terms of, 'Hey, how do we pay the rent? And how do we move forward?'" Mireles said. "We want to be able to find resources to help this family go through this process."
Mireles said the girls' father had a nearly decade-old DUI conviction and an incident 20 years ago where the father said he bought a car with an incorrect registration sticker, unbeknownst to him. Both were reasons given for the deportation.
An attorney for the family was attempting to file paperwork for a U-visa, which would allow Avelica-Gonzalez to remain in the country.
ICE released this statement about the incident:
Officers with one of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Los Angeles-based Fugitive Operations teams took Mr. Avelica into custody Tuesday morning. Mr. Avelica was targeted for arrest because relevant databases indicate he has multiple prior criminal convictions, including a DUI in 2009, as well an outstanding order of removal dating back to 2014. After conducting surveillance to confirm his identity, the officers arrested Mr. Avelica during a vehicle stop in the 3200 block of Pasadena Avenue, approximately a half mile from the charter school described in the related social media post. No one else was detained during the vehicle stop. Mr. Avelica remains in ICE custody at this time.