After Six Months in Immigrant Detention, Taquero Whose Arrest Was Videotaped Walks Out an Advocate

Romulo Avelica Gonzalez was a taquero.

He worked at a modest Mexican restaurant near his home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Lincoln Heights in the city’s Eastside.

Like most immigrants in the country illegally, Avelica Gonzalez kept his head down. He had his job making tacos, the love of his wife Norma and four daughters and not much else the outside world would probably care to know about.

Then he was arrested while taking his two youngest daughters to school. One of them recorded the encounter with her cellphone — and that would make all the difference.

Taken to an immigrant detention facility, he remained there for six months until he walked out, Wednesday night, to a battery of TV cameras.
The cook had become an activist. Or at least that’s what his lawyer called him.

Avelica Gonzalez, 49, balks at the label, but not the burden.
“We have to do something to stop that — the separation of families,” he said Thursday to a supportive crowd. “Because it’s not just us who suffer in there. Our kids also suffer. They’re citizens.”

Avelica Gonzalez’s release comes during a week when President Trump is rumored to be considering ending an Obama-era policy that shields so-called Dreamers — immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. when they were young — from deportation, and after he pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt in connection to racial profiling of Latinos during his crusade against illegal immigration.

He joins an often rhetorically brutal debate over illegal immigration in which warring factions reach for symbols — whether it’s a deported mother or, in the case of Trump, U.S. citizen victims of crimes by those in the country illegally.

In late February, Avelica Gonzalez was detained by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement wearing jackets with the word “POLICE” on the back. His daughter Fatima, now 14, sobbed as she filmed the encounter. It went viral.

By Andrea Castillo for LOS ANGELES TIMES
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