Supporters demand release of Highland Park dad detained by ICE while at kids’ school

Family, friends and community members on Friday demanded city leaders to “do the right thing” by releasing a local father who was detained by ICE while dropping his kids off at school.

Romulo Avelica’s case has gotten national attention after the video of the 48-year-old getting detained went viral.

ICE officials picked up Avelica on Feb. 28 as he dropped his daughters off at school in Highland Park.

His 13-year-old daughter, Fatima Avelica, recorded the whole incident on her phone.

His supporters want the court to vacate a minor decades-old conviction and release him. A court hearing requesting post-conviction relief was scheduled for later Friday.

Emmy McClain, a lawyer with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, spoke at a news conference Friday morning ahead of the court hearing.

“His case has forced us to look not just at the injustices of Donald Trump’s revved up deportation machine, but also the injustices of how our broken criminal justice system is complicit in the deportation machine,” McClain said.

McClain went on to say that local officials can and should be doing more “to avoid outrageously unjust immigration consequences of criminal convictions.”

She said the 20-year-old conviction ICE used as a reason to take Avelica into custody is for driving a car with registration tags that were not purchased at the DMV and receipt of stolen property.

“We ask the judge today to grant post-conviction relief and we ask the city attorney to not fight against this very basic request, but to join with us asking for post-conviction relief,” McClain said. “It’s not just the law, it’s also the right thing to do.”

Other figures who spoke in support of post-conviction relief for Avelica included representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, United Teachers Los Angeles and officials from Avelica’s children’s schools.

Many of those who spoke called directly upon City Attorney Mike Feuer to “stand with immigrant Angelenos” and do the right thing by not fighting post-conviction relief for Avelica.

Avelica has been held at a detention facility outside of Los Angeles since his detainment.

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