Immigrant father fighting deportation has old conviction set aside

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A judge has agreed to set aside a 1998 misdemeanor conviction against Romulo Avelica Gonzalez, a Lincoln Heights father of four who was arrested by immigration agents in February after dropping one of his daughters off at school.

His supporters hope the decision will help him fight deportation.

The 19-year-old conviction involved receiving stolen property. Avelica possessed a vehicle registration sticker that was not legally his. A judge already shelved another conviction Avelica had for a 2008 DUI.

Immigrant advocates hope the two decisions will help Avelica stay in the United States and be reunited with his family.

“The hope is that Mr. Avelica is granted immigration relief by an immigration judge, and that a court reopens his immigration case," said Emi MacLean with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network who is one of the lawyers representing Avelica.

MacLean says Avelica, 48, raised his family in the U.S. and tried to get legal residency in the past. But the stolen property conviction got in the way. 

The latest decision comes after the City Attorney's office, following initial resistance, opted not to oppose Avelica's request to set aside his conviction, city officials said.

“I’d like to thank City Attorney Mike Feuer for ensuring that Romulo Avelica Gonzalez’ case was treated with fairness and all evidence considered in our pursuit of justice for this Angeleno," said City Councilman Gil Cedillo in an emailed statement Wednesday.

His backers also hope Avelica, who is being held at an immigration facility in Adelanto, will be released from detention. However, U.S. immigration officials say that may not happen. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in an emailed statement that because Avelica has a final deportation order, he’s not immediately eligible for bond. Because he’s in the U.S. illegally, he is still subject to deportation, she added.

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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