What does an immigrant father's arrest show us about deportation?

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The footage of an immigrant father of four from Lincoln Heights being publicly detained by ICE after dropping off his daughter at school last week has been circulating the internet, stoking fear in communities throughout Los Angeles.  It has also raised questions about what families should be thinking about in case a relative is in danger of being deported.


Lawyers for Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, the man detained in the video, have managed to stop him from being deported so far, but they also said it would be an "uphill battle" to keep him in the United States.

Teri Stein, an attorney and founder of the Legal Aid Pop-Up Clinic, talked to KPCC's Alex Cohen on Morning Edition about the circumstances surrounding this kind of arrest, how communities are responding, and what can be done to prepare. 

Here are some of the highlights:

On what sets this particular case apart:

What’s special about this case is how it flouts the guidance from [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] about sensitive locations. For the last 8 years, places like schools, churches, health care facilities, are places where ICE is generally supposed to avoid making arrests unless there are exigent and compelling circumstances. The idea of arresting a father of four who has a nearly 10-year-old misdemeanor charge was somehow compelling enough to make the arrest at a school, in a sensitive location, has really terrified the community because it’s such a breach of protocol.

On what advice she would give to concerned families:

Now is a great time to make a family deportation preparedness plan, to get important documents together, to apply for passports, to get guardianship papers set up for children so that parents and children can be reunited in a country once a parent has been deported. It’s also a good time to reach out to your consulate to see what sort of advice or protection they can give – the Mexican consulate is already setting up clinics related to family deportation planning … there are all sort of things documented and undocumented immigrants can do in the community."

Click on the blue play button above to hear the entire interview. Below are other helpful online resources from Stein that can provide information to families. Click on them to head to the respective website.

For general legal help:

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights LA (CHIRLA)

Immigration Defenders Rights Center

Immigration Legal Resource Center

For guardianship issues:

Legal Aid Pop Up Clinic

Bet Tzedek

Family deportation preparedness plan guidelines can be found here (in Spanish) and here in English.

Mexican Consul General

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated where Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez lived. His residence is in Lincoln Heights. KPCC regrets the error.

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