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Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez was just a few blocks away from his daughter’s school when he was pulled over, cuffed and detained by immigration officials while his family was left sobbing in the backseat. His 13-year-old daughter shot a dramatic video capturing the incident in Highland Park, a Latino majority neighborhood in Los Angeles, nearly a month ago.
On Tuesday, March 28, 13-year-old Fatima Avelica delivered a heart-wrenching speech at Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) U.S.-Mexico border press conference. She spoke about her father’s influence in her life and what’s happened since his arrest.
“I finished the LA marathon with the help of my dad,” she said. “He was always on my weekend practices with the bike right beside me, making sure I didn’t give up.”
“My dad was detained right in front of me on my way to school,” she continued. “It was the hardest thing to watch, but I still went to school because my father showed me the importance of education. I knew I’d have someone to support me there.”
Avelica-Gonzalez, an undocumented 48-year-old father of four, is a native of Nayarit, Mexico. He has lived in the U.S. for over two decades and works as a food preparer at a Los Angeles Mexican restaurant. His children are all U.S. citizens.
Fatima saw her dad a few days ago.
“He lost weight,” she noted. “I’m scared that over time he will change more.”
Fatima aims to finish school and become an immigration lawyer.
“That’s like a new marathon for me, but I need my coach there, I need my dad,” she said. “He’s always been right beside me in any struggles I had.”