Los Angeles, CA — The ugly side of “enhanced” deportation was put on full display recently, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested an undocumented immigrant father – who’s lived here for more than 20 years – while dropping his US-born kids off at school.
Video taken by the man’s sobbing 13-year-old daughter appeared on LAist.com. ICE agents, dressed deceptively in POLICE jackets, can be seen handcuffing 48-year-old Romulo Avelica-Gonzales and putting him inside a dark unmarked car. For all his daughter knows at the time, she may never see her father again.
According to LAist:
“Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, an undocumented father of four U.S.-born children, has lived in this country for more than 20 years. On Tuesday, he was dropping his daughters off at school, as he does every morning. He and his wife had already dropped off their 12-year-old daughter and were headed to drop off her 13-year-old sister next when Avelica-Gonzalez was detained by immigration officials a block from his daughter’s school in Highland Park.”
Avelica-Gonzalez’s criminal record consists of a DUI from over 10 years ago and a trivial conviction of having the wrong registration sticker on a car he bought 20 years ago. His moral record, though, appears to be one others should aspire to. He works long hours as a food preparer to raise four children with his wife, and drops his children off at school every day.
A hard-working family man, but somehow on the priority list for ICE enforcement. Agents followed Avelica-Gonzales from his house on the morning of Feb. 28, and then dramatically intercepted his car just after dropping off the first daughter.
Thanks to quick action by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and others, Avelica-Gonzales was granted a temporary stay and is being held at a detention center, but his fate is by no means certain.
The video is a stark demonstration of the terror that can be inflicted by agents of the state, who have no qualms about ripping families apart in broad daylight. The father wasn’t harming anyone, robbing anyone or even possessing a substance deemed illegal by the state. Someone going about working and raising his family can suddenly be whisked away, leaving the children in tears.
For what? His only “crime” was crossing an imaginary line called a ‘political border.’
Avelica-Gonzales is clearly not a threat to the community, and considering there are 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., from a cost-benefit standpoint there is no justification. It should be noted here, contrary to Trump’s claims, immigrants actually commit far fewer crimes than native-born Americans.
The immediate goal of carrying out dramatic arrests of harmless immigrants such as Avelica-Gonzales may be to strike fear into immigrant communities. Arresting this father while dropping off his kids says that anyone can be a target. There are reports that many without criminal records are being swept up in federal immigration raids.
The larger and more subtle goal of these arrests, other ICE sweeps, and the administration’s general rhetoric against immigrants may be to stoke aggression toward outgroups – one of the main pillars of authoritarianism. The fear-mongering and hate-mongering against immigrants certainly appear to be working.
Another tactic being employed by ICE – as seen in the video – is the wearing of clothes that say POLICE, instead of clearly identifying themselves as immigration enforcement. In doing so, they confuse residents into thinking local police are starting to help in the crackdown on immigration – deteriorating whatever trust exists in between the community and local police. Los Angeles officials have asked ICE to stop identifying themselves as police.
“We have worked for decades in L.A. to build stronger trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement. Misleading practices like these undermine the good faith and spirit of cooperation that is so integral to our city’s safety and security,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement to LAist.
Meanwhile, Avelica-Gonzalez’s arrest is already having ripple effects of fear and uncertainty in the community. The school where his daughter attends held an assembly to stand in solidarity with the family, who are awaiting word of what will happen to their father.
“Everybody on November 9th was afraid,” said Ricardo Mireles, executive director of the charter school Academia Avance. “But it was fear of what was not known. Today was the first time it was directly one of our families, so it just made real the fears that were already there.”
It is also important to note, as Ron Paul has pointed out, that this is no way to deal with an immigration problem.
Illegal immigrants are a convenient scapegoat for our economic crisis. But with free markets and private property, the need for immigrant labor becomes obvious. Most immigrants, regardless of the color of their skin, are open to the ideals of liberty: private property, free markets, sound money, right to life, low taxes, less war, protection of civil liberties, and a foreign policy designed for peace.
How to tackle the real immigration problem? Eliminate incentives for those who would come here to live off the rest of us, and make it easier and more rational for those who wish to come here legally to contribute to our economy. No walls, no government databases, no biometric national ID cards. But not a penny in welfare for immigrants. It’s really that simple.