Dad taken by ICE while dropping kids at school granted emergency stay

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A father taken into custody by immigration agents while dropping his daughters off at school earlier this year has been granted an emergency stay of removal, preventing his deportation for now.

Romulo Avelica, a 48-year-old undocumented father of four, was picked up by ICE agents on Feb. 28 as he was dropping his children off at school in Highland Park.

EMBED More News Videos

While being dropped off at school with her sisters, 13-year-old Fatima Avelica recorded her undocumented father being picked up by agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

His 13-year-old daughter captured the incident on camera.

MORE: LA officials urge ICE agents to stop identifying themselves as "police"

Avelica, who has been in the U.S. for more than 25 years, faces deportation due to a decades-old DUI conviction and another minor incident 20 years ago.

His attorney said the family applied for a U visa for victims of violent crimes, but has been told that the application won't be considered until his emergency stay with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals expires on Aug. 7.

His family feared he would be deported before his case was even reviewed.

MORE: Mayor Garcetti speaks out about ICE arrest of Highland Park father

However, on Monday, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) granted Avelica an emergency stay of removal, preventing his deportation while the BIA reviews his case, according to a statement from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

"We are now asking the BIA to reconsider its prior decision and recognize that Mr. Avelica should have a right to stay in the United States. ICE should release Romulo immediately," said Alan Diamante, an immigration attorney representing Avelica.

Now, Jocelyn Avelica and her sister Brenda said they are hopeful they'll be reunited with their dad after the tense weekend.

"You can hear it in his voice that he just felt a big relief. The whole weekend he was just stressed out," Jocelyn said.

Brenda said her father is happy, but he also said that the family needs to remain strong to continue fighting the deportation.

He is being held in a San Bernardino detention center. The Avelica family said he is diabetic and his health is deteriorating in the facility.

His attorney said if officials don't release his client, he'll go before an immigration judge at the end of the month to request bail while the case is being considered.
Copyright © 2021 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.