Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times

Originally published by Los Angeles Times

An immigration appeals court Monday granted a last-ditch reprieve to a man whose arrest and looming deportation have made him a cause celèbre in the country’s roiling debate over illegal immigration.

Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, 49, was arrested in February in Los Angeles by immigration officers moments after he dropped one of his four daughters off at school. Another of the girls who was in the car at the time recorded a video of the arrest.

The video, and Avelica-Gonzalez’s story of working and raising a family during more than two decades in the United States, drew national headlines and was held aloft by critics of President Trump‘s aggressive stance on illegal immigration as an example of how the government’s deportation policies were too sweeping.

Faced with the possibility of being immediately deported due to previous immigration proceedings, lawyers for Avelica-Gonzalez filed an emergency stay of removal with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which put a temporary hold on his immediate deportation.

The court reviewed the case and declined to make the stay permanent, putting Avelica-Gonzalez at risk of being deported to Mexico as early as Monday.

But the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest administrative body in the country’s immigration court system, stepped in, granting a request from Avelica-Gonzalez’s attorney for another emergency stay of removal. The decision prevents his deportation while the board reviews Avelica-Gonzalez’s case.

Avelica-Gonzalez has been in the United States illegally for more than 25 years, raising his daughters with his wife in the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Lincoln Heights, where he also worked as a cook at a restaurant.

In June, Avelica-Gonzalez made plea deals to resolve two misdemeanor criminal cases – for driving under the influence in 2008 and for receiving stolen car tags in 1998 – that had led to a deportation order being issued against him. His lawyers hoped that with the changes, Immigration and Customs Enforcement would grant his release and cancel his deportation order. That didn’t occur.

Avelica-Gonzalez’s detention has drawn reaction from local officials. In a March 15 letter to the Los Angeles field office director for ICE, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said: I have consistently expressed my opposition to an enforcement approach that expends limited resources on operations that divide families with little or no public safety benefit.

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