Fatima Avelica is a 13-year-old girl who had to watch her father being taken into custody by United States immigration agents while he was driving her to school.
“He has told me how much he wants to be home with us.”
13-year-old Fatima Avelica’s father was detained by ICE while taking her to school: pic.twitter.com/kUgtheXQpf
— Fusion (@Fusion) March 29, 2017
While recording on her camera, Fatima sobbed as ICE took her father away. On the morning of February 28, her father, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, stepped out of the vehicle and told his daughter to “relax and be strong.” The Washington Post reported that, at her mother’s suggestion, Fatima captured the terrifying moment when her father was taken into custody.
Speaking through tears one month later and clutching a medal hanging around her neck, Fatima appeared at Senator Charles E. Schumer’s news conference concerning President Trump’s proposed border wall.
“My dad was detained in front of me on my way to school. 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. I finished the L.A. Marathon with the help of my dad.”
Fatima explained that her father wanted to ensure she would never give up, so he rode his bike alongside her during weekend practices.
“When I finish high school, I want to go to college so I can go to law school. I want to become an immigration lawyer. That’s like a new marathon for me, and I know I can finish it, but I need my coach there; I need my dad. I never thought any of my life I would have to experience seeing my father taken away from me. He has always been right beside me to help me in any struggles I had.”
— Sarah D. Wire (@sarahdwire) March 28, 2017
The event on Tuesday was organized by the National Council of La Raza and Democrat senators who oppose Trump’s requests for more personnel at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and for hundreds of millions of dollars to commence construction of “the wall” – a United States-Mexico border wall.
The new spending agreement must be approved by late April, and talks are well underway between Democrats and the Republicans. In an effort to create more public opposition to Trump’s “wall” plans, the Democratic caucus will continue highlighting the personal and heartbreaking stories of families who’ve been affected by Trump’s immigration policies.
Rosa Escobar’s husband, José, was deported back to Mexico and she told reporters how difficult it is to explain her husband’s removal to her young children.
“My biggest fear today is getting a phone call saying that my husband has been murdered. How do I explain that to my two children? Why is my American Dream being crushed by my own country, because my own president doesn’t understand that I’m in love with someone who is an illegal immigrant. However, I’m trying to do things the right way.”
— Gretchem Aikens (@gretchem_a) March 29, 2017
Following the arrest of Avelica-Gonzalez on February 28, teachers were left trying to console their students, realizing that they should possibly be preparing some students for their own parents’ sudden deportation.
Ricardo Mireles is the Executive Director of Academia Avance. He spoke to the Los Angeles Times about his concerns for the children.
“You need to be ready. ‘Have you talked to your parents? Do you have power of attorney?'”
According to the White House, they’re only deporting undocumented immigrants who pose a threat to the United States, but advocates say that undocumented immigrants who don’t have criminal records are also being detained by ICE. Regarding Avelica-Gonzalez, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement gave the following statement.
“Avelica-Gonzalez was targeted for arrest 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.”
19-year-old Jocelyn is Avelica-Gonzalez’s daughter, and she spoke to KTLA after her father’s arrest.
“We knew the day was going to come. Especially with the election. We just weren’t prepared.”
Her father was a 48-year-old restaurant worker, and the sole source of income for his wife and four children. At Tuesday’s news conference, Fatima spoke about their uncertain future.
“Now my family and I are living day by day to see what happens next.”
— David Avila (@Kaliasdaddy) March 30, 2017
She had visited her father in custody late last week and said he appeared “way skinnier than he was,” saying she’s scared that over time he will change more. Speaking through her tears, Fatima said her father told her how much he wants to be home with his family.
“My dad has lived here more than he has lived in Mexico. He knows life here. Me and my sisters are not willing to go back to Mexico. We’re here to stay.”
Senator Schumer was very scathing of Trump’s calls to expand the size of ICE and for more money for the border wall, noting that instead of wasting taxpayer’s money on a “pointless wall,” the money would be better spent on “creating jobs and fixing our infrastructure,” not in separating American families
“Immigrants are an integral part of this country. Democrats will be vigilant and strong in our commitment to upholding the promise of America and shielding immigrants from President Trump’s policies. Senate Democrats are prepared to fight this all the way.”
Senator Robert Menendez has worked on immigration issues since coming to Congress in the 1990s. He was very disturbed and emotional listening to Fatima speak, and told reporters that these latest stories about families being severely affected by Trump’s policies simply add to decades of stories they’ve been dealing with for some time.
“I believe that our caucus will do everything possible to make sure that U.S. taxpayer moneys do not go to build a wall. President Trump said Mexico is going to build that wall, I don’t believe we need a wall. At the end of the day, he should keep his word and make someone else pay for it — not the United States taxpayer.”
Fatima said she wants to attend college and become an immigration lawyer.
[Featured Image by Zach Gibson/Getty Images]