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Fatima Avelica Watched Her Dad Get Arrested by Immigration Officials While Taking Her to School





Fatima Avelica hasn’t been getting much sleep for the past week. Last Tuesday morning, Fatima’s father, Rómulo Avelica-González, had just dropped her 12-year-old sister off at school and was on his way to drop Fatima off when the family noticed two unmarked vehicles following them. Soon enough, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents pulled the car over and took Rómulo — all while Fatima, who is 13 years old, recorded what was happening on her cell phone. It’s been a marathon ever since trying to get him back home.

After handcuffing him, ICE agents took Rómulo, an undocumented immigrant who was born in Mexico and came to the United States in 1991, to an immigrant detention facility in Downtown Los Angeles. Then he was transferred to the Adelanto detention center two hours away. Rómulo was convicted of a DUI in 2009 and has an order of deportation; he’s also a father to four daughters, a loving husband, and a breadwinner who provides for his family.




Rather than heading back home in silence, Fatima and her family went to school anyway. “I knew that we would be supported here,” says Fatima.

Fatima Avelica, 13, whose father was taken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while he was driving her to school.

She was right. The Academia Avance charter school operates in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, where nearly half of residents were born outside the U.S., and its faculty members are deeply invested in their students’ lives. So, when Fatima showed up with news of what happened to Rómulo, the school immediately began mobilizing. They pulled Fatima’s family members out of class to tell them what had happened, and started calling attorneys, allies, and the press.

“I’ve rarely seen such extraordinary action by a family and a school on the front lines,” Emi MacLean, a staff attorney with the National Day Labor Organizing Network who is working on Rómulo’s case, tells Teen Vogue. MacLean points out that Rómulo, arrested just a few blocks from his daughter’s school, was taken in an area considered a sensitive location by ICE’s own directive. According to ICE’s website, “sensitive locations should generally be avoided, and require either prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action.” In a statement to Teen Vogue, ICE says that Rómulo was arrested “approximately a half mile from the school in question.” Google Maps indicates that’s a one-minute drive just five blocks away from Academia Avance.




Because Rómulo already had a deportation order, it was expected that he would be taken to Mexico right away — but MacLean says that’s not what happened. Attorneys had enough time to file an emergency stay of removal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued a temporary stay based on that filing. MacLean says attorneys will also file for a special visa for Rómulo that would allow him to stay in the United States. The immediate goal, says MacLean, is to get Rómulo out on bond so that he can be reunited with his family while he fights his deportation.

Fatima’s school, led by founder and executive director Ricardo Mireles, isn’t just working with Fatima’s family to stop Rómulo’s deportation — Avance is also working with all of the school’s families to create a detailed and comprehensive plan before any family member is potentially detained by ICE.
Ricardo Mireles, executive director of Academia Avance Charter school.

Unlike some schools that report a drop in attendance after a high-profile immigrant detention or deportation, Avance’s classrooms are still full. “There’s fear,” says Mireles, “and then there’s being paralyzed.” The executive director is making sure his school’s community avoids the latter. Avance helped organize a rally for Rómulo Monday in front of ICE’s offices in Los Angeles this week, and used its big yellow school bus to take families there. Mireles also started a fund-raising drive to help the family make ends meet during Rómulo’s absence.



Despite all the community organizing, Avance still operates a school, with 400 young people in its student body. Aside from meeting with attorneys and dealing with the press, Fatima, an eighth grader with hopes of going on to college after high school, is still attending classes and doing her homework. “I lost count of how many interviews I’ve done in both English and Spanish,” she told Teen Vogue on Monday.

She also spends as much time as possible talking to her dad, who’s allowed to make phone calls from detention. He tells her to stay strong and thanks her for everything she’s done to stop his deportation. On top of her studies and organizing, Fatima’s also an avid runner at Academia Avance and plans to take part in the Los Angeles Marathon later this month. It’s a 26-mile marathon — and she missed her regular practice for it the Tuesday that her dad was detained. Her dad is encouraging Fatima to complete it. “I didn’t feel like running it, but why back out?” she wonders. In some ways, the race parallels her family’s ordeal: There’s a finish line somewhere, but it’s difficult to reach.




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16 thoughts on “Fatima Avelica Watched Her Dad Get Arrested by Immigration Officials While Taking Her to School

  • March 14, 2017 at 9:38 pm
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    in coming here the way he did ,he broke the law and NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW ,so deport with his whole family then they want be apart ,if I brake the law I go to jail .fair is fair

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  • March 14, 2017 at 9:50 pm
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    Its her parents fault for coming over here illegally. They knew exactly what they were doing and the risk. They knew the Law but failed to obey it. Past administrations were incompetent! They failed miserably in enforcing the Law, so now that we finally have a President who is a real man and enforces the Law then people are in an uproar!!!! WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WHEN YOU BREAK THE LAW???????? This should have been done YEARS AGO!!!! Your Right!!! It is President Trumps fault!!! President Trump is actually enforcing the Laws that have been Law forever!!!!

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  • March 14, 2017 at 10:20 pm
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    Gee, it’s sad, but what the hell, that’s the risk illegal aliens take. We need to change birthright citizenship, babies born here should be the same status as the mother. If the both the father and mother are illegal, they should all be deported. When the children are of age they can come back and petition for their parents.

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  • March 15, 2017 at 12:39 am
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    So all those people could pay for resources and expensive lawyers but for over 20 years he couldnt do squat to be a citizen of this country. Cry me a river. If you cant do the bare minimum required to become a citizen then you must not have wanted it that bad Nor do you respect all the freedoms you have had no problems taking advantage of.

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    • March 15, 2017 at 7:27 am
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      Agreed 20 trillion %

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  • March 15, 2017 at 12:54 am
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    Cry me a river. Not. Her father is a lawe breaker. He was here illegally before she was born.

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  • March 15, 2017 at 2:29 am
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    So, he’s been here since 1991 (26 years) yet still isn’t a citizen? BULLSHIT!!! Obviously he didn’t want the American Dream that badly. Deport him and his family. Mexican citizens.

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  • March 15, 2017 at 2:33 am
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    He is a criminal that evaded capture for several years. Why should any of us care more about his children then he obviously did? A “loving family man” would never have placed his family in that situation to begin with. ICE is not at fault for this. This man is solely responsible. He broke the law coming here, he broke the law by driving while intoxicated, and he broke the law when he evaded his deportation order. He needs to go. If the family is upset about being separated, I am sure that they could go with him.

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  • March 15, 2017 at 2:49 am
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    My “Reply” is : What is needed to become a US Citizen? There’s a movie “MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON” in which Robin Williams (RIP) played a Russian circus performer that has a friend who wants to defect while he himself isn’t interested and tries to convince his friend not to. Finding himself alone and able to leave the band of circus performers he decides to defect. Anyway, defecting isn’t like crossing borders illegally but what he does do is study to become a US Citizen. I do not understand why so many who cross the border find themselves illegally here and don’t at least try to find some way to become legal. Maybe due to the fact Russia doesn’t want people defecting while Mexico turns a blind eye towards it.

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  • March 15, 2017 at 3:22 am
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    Why is their no report that this illegal man has been working on getting naturalized. Poor illegals that are here ILLEGALLY for years and have many children in these years and people are made to feel sorry for this criminal now. Yes he was picked up by are law enforcers. Just like any American that breaks the law, there are consequences. I have no sympathy for anyone that breaks the law and runs and hides for years without at least trying to become a legal citizen. I pay my fines when I break the law. I have gone to court to explain my mistakes and except the consequences. Quit boo hooing this criminal.

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  • March 15, 2017 at 5:42 am
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    He’s had an order of deportation since 2009 for DUI and he’s still here? THAT’s what’s wrong at all levels with this picture of undeserved sympathy from an obviously biased source.

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  • March 15, 2017 at 6:35 am
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    Good, Come to America LEGALLY!

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  • March 15, 2017 at 12:48 pm
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    I agree, he has been here since 1991, convicted of a D.U.I. in 2009 and ordered deported. I do feel sorry for the girl, because her father should have known better. But he is still a criminal and should go. He had 26 years to get it right and become a citizen.

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  • March 15, 2017 at 7:17 pm
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    This man of 4 is a law breaker twice. Once for coming into the U.S. illegally, and second by being convicted of a D.U.I. My Uncle raises two girls. He had a D.U.I. and was put in jail. He was in jail for one week. He didn’t see his family for a whole week, and yes he was a illegal citizen of the U.S. He made a choice to drink while driving. He could have killed someone while being drunk. There are so many unanswered questions that the American people have about this illegal man, that the gaps MUST be filled. Oh, while we are on this subject, what job is he taking away from someone who in a citizen and wants work, but can’t find one? I was an owner/operator of my own Painting business for over 20 years. The reason that I retired early, was because of illegals that have NO LICENSE AND WILL UNDERCUT MY PRICES. They will do the same job for $1,000.00 to $1,500.00 less that my bid. The only thing that is criminal is that 1.) They have NO license, 2.) Don’t have to pay for their license, or bond. 3.) Don’t have to pay for Workers Comp. 4.) Don’t have to pay for their Liability Insurance. 5.) No guarantee of their job to the client. 6.) they will on many occasions, they will cut the paint. So DON’T give me this sob story. Good hard working citizens have to pay taxes to fund their life style. It disgusting that this School would have to support a criminal, who has broken our laws.

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  • March 17, 2017 at 7:21 am
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    What a load of crap. Oh, poor kids! They’re in charter schools, headed directly to college and a great life and income, (“Avance’s classrooms are still full’). Yeah, full of students here illegally, taking away a a CITIZEN’S opportunity to attend that school!

    At the EXPENSE of CITIZENS and their TAXES.

    Your father brought you here illegally? Well, yeah, that’s what happens. As if he didn’t now. He knew and he brought you here anyway. Then, he got a DUI! He could have killed SOMEONE ELSE’S DAUGHTER!

    Be mad at him!

    Reply

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