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Father's deportation order is tossed out

Andrea Castillo, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES--An immigration appeals court this week threw out the final deportation order for Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, who was detained in late February minutes after he dropped his daughter off at school in Lincoln Heights.

His lawyer said the case will be kicked back to the local immigration court that initially ordered that he be deported. That means Avelica-Gonzalez, 49, is still in deportation proceedings, but it could take years for a judge to enter a new decision.

An official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency can no longer comment on Avelica-Gonzalez's case because of his pending U visa application.

Avelica-Gonzalez, a Mexican citizen, has lived in the United States for 25 years. ICE agents arrested him Feb. 28, minutes after he dropped off his daughter Yuleni, 12, at school. Another daughter, Fatima, now 14, sobbed as she recorded cellphone video of the encounter, which went viral.

The case drew national attention, with critics citing it as an example of President Donald Trump's aggressive and sweeping stance on illegal immigration. Meanwhile, supporters of Trump's hard-line approach emphasize that immigrants like Avelica-Gonzalez broke the law by coming to the country illegally and further undermined any claim to live in the U.S. when they committed crimes, however minor.

Avelica-Gonzalez has a bond hearing Aug. 30, said his lead attorney, Alan Diamante. He could be released that day while his attorneys continue to fight his immigration case.

"These five months have felt like five years," Avelica-Gonzalez said in an interview Aug. 4 at the Adelanto Detention Facility in San Bernardino County.

Diamante said the deportation order was vacated Monday by the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest administrative body in the country's immigration court system.

In June, lawyers settled Avelica-Gonzalez's decades-old misdemeanor convictions -- for driving under the influence and for receiving stolen car tags -- that prompted the deportation order leading to his arrest. He pleaded guilty to lesser vehicle code violations.

"When we started with him he had two significant crimes and a removal order," Diamante said. "Now all that is gone."

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