Forty-eight-year-old Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez--a father of four-- lived his Tuesday morning as any other. That routine, however, was broken shortly after Avelica-Gonzalez headed to drop off his 13-year-old daughter Fatima at school. Less than a block away from his daughter's school in Highland Park, California, immigration officials detained the food preparer, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who has resided in the U.S. for more than two decades.
The event was recorded by Fatima.
Avelica-Gonzalez's other daughter, who is 19, spoke to the LAist about the incident.
She said, "My dad dropped off my first sister and then when he turned around, they turned on their light," Jocelyn said. "My dad was really scared. He didn't want to pull over, but he did. As soon as he did, one car went in front of his truck and one in back of his truck. They took him out and they arrested him. My little sister was still in the car, she's 13. My mom was also there."
'I know he is not a criminal. I've always said we all do things that we learn from. He is our father, a hard worker, an honest man.
WATCH | Avelica-Gonzalez's 13-year-old daughter sobs as she records immigration officials whisk her father away.
"I was scared and sad at the same time," Fatima told CNN Friday. "I never thought I would have to experience something like this in my life ... on my way to school."
It was her mother's idea, she said, to record the incident. Before her father was taken away, he reportedly told her to “to relax and be strong.”
Emi MacLean, an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), worked extensively to get word out about Avelica-Gonzalez's detention, hoping it would mobilize a rapid response network to make calls to ICE officials.
Her organization set-up a website where people can easily call on immigration officials to allow Avelica-Gonzalez to stay in the US.
According to a statement, ICE officials in Los Angeles took Avelica-Gonzalez into custody "because relevant databases indicate he has multiple prior criminal convictions, including a DUI in 2009, as well an outstanding order of removal dating back to 2014."
Ricardo Mireles, executive director of the charter school Academia Avance, told KABC-TV, however, that the DUI conviction occurred nearly a decade ago. The other run-in with the law came 20 years ago after Avelica-Gonzalez said he unknowingly bought a car with a incorrect registration sticker.
As of ICE's Friday statement, Avelica-Gonzalez was still in custody.