Things That Matter

He Was Taking His Children To School When ICE Stopped And Arrested Him Half A Mile From His Daughter’s School

For more than two decades, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez — an immigrant from Mexico — has called the U.S. his home. On Tuesday, February 28th, the 48-year-old father of four had just dropped off his 12-year-old daughter at a Los Angeles area school when he was directed to pull over by two vehicles that had apparently been tailing him.

After getting out of the car, Avelica-Gonzalez’s wife watched on from the front seat as ICE officials arrested her husband. From the backseat, his 13-year-old daughter, Fatima Avelica, captured the ordeal on camera, sobbing as her father was driven away.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the arrest took place barely a half mile from his younger daughter’s school.

Avelica-Gonzalez, who is originally from Nayarit, Mexico, LAist reports, has lived in the U.S. for the past 25 years.

DEMOCRACY NOW! / YOUTUBE

In an interview with Democracy Now!, Emi Maclean, the immigration attorney working with the detained’s family, said that Avelica-Gonzalez’s deportation stems from two prior convictions. One was from a 2008 DUI case, and the other occurred in 1998 when Avelica-Gonzalez received a stolen vehicle registration tag, which he couldn’t obtain otherwise because he couldn’t legally acquire a driver’s license at that time.

ICE acted on a 2014 order for Avelica-Gonzalez’s deportation.

Avelica-Gonzalez’s immediate deportation was delayed thanks to the efforts of the community.

STOP Romulo’s Deportation / Facebook

Maclean told Democracy Now! that ICE officials had planned to put Avelica-Gonzalez on a bus to Tijuana the same day he was detained. With the help of the community and his attorney, “an emergency stay of removal” was filed on behalf of Avelica-Gonzalez, the Los Angeles Times reports. Advocates have been fighting to keep Avelica-Gonzalez in the country and a rally has been scheduled for March 6th.

As Maclean told Democracy Now!, the community’s involvement is very important to keeping the father of four in the country, saying:

[P]art of why it has been so important to have the community rally around Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez’s case is to demonstrate that no one is disposable. That we need to contest every single case.

Since the arrest, Avelica-Gonzalez has been detained in a facility in Adelanto, California.

Julia Wick / YouTube

Avelica-Gonzalez’s family has not yet been able to visit him in the facility in which he is being held thanks to a quarantine. For now, the family awaits to find out what will happen to their father and husband, who, according to the Los Angeles Times, is the sole income provider in the family.

[h/t] Immigrant arrested by ICE after dropping daughter off at school, sending shockwaves through neighborhood

READ: She Spoke At A Press Conference About Her Family Being Detained And Was Picked Up By ICE

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ICE Has Gone Rogue As It Continues With Deportations Despite Several Policy Changes

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ICE Has Gone Rogue As It Continues With Deportations Despite Several Policy Changes

Long before taking office, President Biden vowed to undo many of the Trump administration’s most cruel and inhumane immigration policies within days of taking office. But despite several executive orders, Biden’s policies have met several roadblocks and swift changes in immigration policy have yet to arrive.

One major roadblock to ending deportations has been a federal judge that placed a hold on a Biden’s executive order and the other has been a “rogue agency” that’s continued several of Trump’s immigration policies.

Migrant rights advocates are calling ICE a “rogue agency” as it faces new allegations of abuse.

Although President Biden has outlined his immigration policy and installed his new head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – which oversees ICE – the White House still does not have full control of ICE, which faces multiple allegations of human rights abuses and allegations that it has disproportionately targeted Black migrants.

The agency also continues to deport immigrants who don’t fit the categories approved for deportation by DHS – even those who had been taken off deportation flights just hours before.

Many deportees are claiming that ICE has stepped up its torture of detainees.

Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Several migrant rights groups – Freedom for Immigrants, Al Otro Lado and Advocates for Immigrants Rights – published affidavits from Cameroonian asylum seekers who they said were tortured by being forced to approve their own deportations. The asylum seekers described being forced to the floor and having their fingers inked and pressed on to deportation documents they had refused to sign.

According to The Guardian, one Cameroonian asylum seeker described being brought into a room with darkened windows where he was forced by agents to put his fingerprint on a document in lieu of a signature, waiving his rights to further legal process before deportation.

“I tried to stand up because of the force that they were using on me, and they tripped me,” HT said. “I fell on the floor; I kept my hands under my body. I held my hands tight at waist level so they could not have them. Five of the Ice officers and one of the officers in green … joined them. They pressed me down and said that I needed to give them my finger for the fingerprint.”

One man was put on a flight to Haiti even though he’s not Haitian and had never been to that country.

And despite new directives from DHS and the Biden administration, ICE continues to carry out deportation flights containing people who fit none of the current criteria for deportation.

Just last week, Paul Pierrilus, a 40-year-old financial consultant from New York, who had never been to Haiti and is not a Haitian citizen, was taken off a deportation flight at the last moment after the intervention of his local congressman, Mondaire Jones. But just days later, ICE put him on another plane and sent him to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Jones told the Guardian: “Ice is a rogue agency that must be brought to heel. There is no world in which an agency under the control of the leader of the executive branch should continue to deport people after the president of the United States signed an executive order halting deportations for 100 days.”

However, the Biden administration has also moved forward on its own with many deportations.

It’s true that a federal judge ordered the Biden administration not to enforce a 100-day pause on deportations, but the ruling did not require the government to schedule them. However, the administration has moved forward on deportations for hundreds of immigrants within the past two weeks.

It’s unclear how many of those people are considered national security or public safety threats or had recently crossed the border illegally, the priority under new guidance that DHS issued to enforcement agencies.

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This Inmate Firefighter Was Nearly Killed Battling California Blazes But Now He’s Facing Deportation

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This Inmate Firefighter Was Nearly Killed Battling California Blazes But Now He’s Facing Deportation

Across the United States there are hundreds of thousands of undocumented Americans doing their part to protect and better the country. But far too often, our communities and our leaders don’t return the favor.

One man, a former inmate who was injured while battling California’s historic wildfires, was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after he was released from prison. Instead of being given a second chance, he faces likely deportation back to his native country of Laos – a place he hasn’t known since he was 4 years old.

A California man is facing deportation after nearly dying on the frontlines of the state’s wildfires.

A formerly incarcerated firefighter who helped battle California’s historic wildfires is now in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, after the state notified the agency he was being released.

Bounchan Keola, 39, left his native Laos at the age of 4. His home is here in the United States – in San Leandro, CA to be exact. But he’s facing the ultimate punishment of being sent back to a place he knows nothing about.

“He made a mistake as a child. He came here impoverished and he was resettled as a refugee when he was 6,” said his San Francisco Asian Law Caucus attorney, Anoop Prasad. “And he literally risked his life. California didn’t have to call ICE to deport him…This case is extremely sad and unfortunate. Society has failed him again and again.” 

Even more shocking is that Keola only had 14 days left on his prison term when he was crushed by a tree while battling the Zogg Fire in early October. He was soon released from prison but then taken into immigration custody by ICE.

While fighting a wildfire, Keyla was severely injured.

Credit: David McNew / Getty Images

Although Keola was convicted of attempted second degree murder, not only has he served his term but he also gave back to the community as one of the thousands of inmate firefighters battling the state’s blazes. In fact, he received a shorter prison sentence because of the extra credit he earned for fighting fires. 

Incarcerated firefighters get two days credit off their sentence for every day they’re working and are paid up to $5 a day. It’s estimated they save the state tens of millions of dollars a year. 

But then Keola got injured.

While he was stationed in Redding, CA., a tree fell on him while he was clearing brush to stop the fire from spreading. He is still in excruciating pain, his lawyer said, and he has not received the proper medical attention.

Since his release from prison, Keola has been in ICE detention.

Just seven days after being injured and with seven days left in his prison term, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation notified ICE that his release would be coming up. On Oct. 16, the day Keola finished serving his prison sentence in Sacramento, ICE came to pick him up. On Oct. 29, an immigration judge ordered his removal to Laos, records show.

Since being picked up by ICE, Keola has been held at a detention facility in Kern County. Although he faces a deportation order, Laos doesn’t have a repatriation agreement with the U.S., which means he could end up staying in California. But his fate is still unclear. And only a pardon from Newsom, his attorneys said, would expunge his record and allow him to go home freely to his parents and sister. 

I just want to go home and give my mom and dad a hug,” Keola told The Guardian, the first news organization to report the story. “All I know is I’m American. I’ve never thought of myself not being a citizen. I’m just asking for that one, second chance.”

Keola’s fate is in the hands of Gov. Newsom as he awaits a potential pardon for his crime.

Gov. Newsom has painted himself as a champion of those who have been incarcerated and fought on the front lines to save California during the wildfire season. That’s why Keola and his attorney say that his fate is in the hands of the governor. He has asked for a pardon from his prison sentence, showing that he has changed for the better and that his service to the state battling wildfires should count for something.

On Sept. 11,  Newsom signed AB 2147, a bill that will allow formerly incarcerated people to be able to try to expunge their records and become professional firefighters. Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter,” Newsom later said in a tweet after signing the bill. 

Yet Keola, an inmate fighting fire on the frontlines, hasn’t been given that chance. And although California is a sanctuary state, which forbids most cooperation with ICE, Keola was still handed over to the agency.

Newsom’s spokesperson, Jesse Melgar, said in a statement: “We are unable to discuss individual clemency applications, but can assure that each application receives careful and individualized consideration.”

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