Dodgers World Series bright spot for immigrant community

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For Los Angeles Dodgers fan and illegal Mexican immigrant Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, the team's first trip to the World Series in nearly three decades has been a rare bright spot in an otherwise difficult time.

The 49-year-old father of four was apprehended by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers after dropping his 12-year-old daughter off at her Los Angeles school in February.

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The arrest got national attention after another one of his daughters filmed him being taken away in a video that went viral.

Avelica-Gonzalez, who was released on bond in late August after spending six months in custody, continues to fight deportation while working as a cook in the city.

He said the success of "Los Dodgers" has given those living in the Los Angeles area illegally something to rally around at a time when the Trump administration's efforts to step up deportations has created deep uncertainty and fear.

12 PHOTOS
Dodgers World Series a bright spot for immigrant family
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Dodgers World Series a bright spot for immigrant family
Undocumented immigrant Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, 49, (R) poses for a photo with his wife Norma Avelica-Gonzalez, 48, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Romulo Avelica- Gonzalez is hugged as he exits the Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, California, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez exits the Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, California, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Romulo Avelica- Gonzalez greets supporters as he exits the Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, California, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez exits the Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, California, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez is hugged by his daughter Brenda as he exits the Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, California, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez speaks to news media after exiting the Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, California, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez embraces his grandson Kelvin, as he is greeted by friends and family after exiting the Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, California, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez makes a phone call after exiting the Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, California, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Undocumented immigrant Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, 49, (R) poses for a photo with his wife Norma Avelica-Gonzalez, 48, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Undocumented immigrant Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, 49, (R) poses for a photo with his wife Norma Avelica-Gonzalez, 48, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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"The Dodgers being in the World Series is helping us forget some of our problems," Avelica-Gonzalez told Reuters through an interpreter while wearing a crisp white Dodgers jersey.

"The whole Mexican community is united to support them."

Avelica-Gonzalez and his wife were in downtown L.A. to attend an oversight commission meeting looking into what extent the Los Angeles Sheriff was cooperating with ICE.

The heated affair included immigration advocates, who argued ICE was breaking families apart, and Trump supporters, who called the immigrants criminals and held signs saying "Illegals Don't Have Rights" and "Respect President Trump."

The tension was enough to make anyone yearn for the distraction of a good ball game.

More illegal immigrants live in Southern California than anywhere else in the country, according to the Pew Research Center study. There are about 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, according to Pew.

While beloved now, the Dodgers history with the city's Mexican-American community is complicated.

Los Angeles County forced Mexican-American families out of their homes in the Chavez Ravine the late 1950s after a decade-long standoff to make way for Dodgers Stadium.

Despite that history, the team is embraced by the community.

Related: Look back at the Dodgers' last World Series appearance: 

18 PHOTOS
1988 World Series: Dodgers defeat Oakland Athletics
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1988 World Series: Dodgers defeat Oakland Athletics
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 15: Manager Tommy Lasorda of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tony LaRussa of the Oakland Athletics, shake hands during the player introductions during the World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California in October 15, 1988. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 15: First Lady Nancy Reagan throws the ceremonial first pitch of the 1988 World Series featuring the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on October 15, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 5-4 in game one of the series. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 1988: Mickey Hatcher #9 of the Los Angeles Dodgers stands on deck circle and waits for his turn to bat against the Oakland Athletics during the World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California in October of 1988. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 15: Dave Stewart #34 of the Oakland Athletics throws the first pitch of the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on October 15, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 5-4 in game 1. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 15: Los Angeles Dodgers teammates rush Kirk Gibson #23 after he hit a home run against the Oakland Athletics during the World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 1988 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 5-4 in game 1 of the series. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 15: Jose Conseco #33 of the Oakland Athletics and Mike Davis #20 of the Los Angeles Dodgers, former teammates, pose before the competition during the World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California in October 15, 1988. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: Los Angeles Dodgers' Kirk Gibson #23 gestures to the crowd after hitting a home run during the World Series against the Oakland Athletics at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 1988 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 5-4 in game 1 of the series. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 16: Orel Hershiser #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws the first pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on October 16, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 6-0 in game 2 of the World Series. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 16: Alfredo Claudino Griffin of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs across home plate against the Oakland Athletics during game 2 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California in October 16, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 6-0. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16, 1988: Infielder Steve Sax #2 of the Los Angeles Dodgers slides in at second base ahead of the tag of shortstop Walt Weiss #7 of the Oakland Athletics during game 2 of the 1988 World Series, October 16, 1988 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers won the series 4-1. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 19: Mark McGwire #25 of the Oakland Athletics bats against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game 3 of the World Series at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on October 19, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 4-3 in game 4. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 20: Orel Hershiser #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the 1988 World Series at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on October 20, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 4-3 in the decisive game 5 of the World Series. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: Kirk Gibson #23 of the Los Angeles Dodgers bats in the bottom of the ninth inning of game one against the Oakland Athletics during the 1988 World Series, October 15, 1988 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers won the series 4-1. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 20, 1988: Third baseman Carney Lansford of the Oakland Athletics makes a diving catch in game 5 of the 1988 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics, October 20, 1988 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Dodgers won the series 4-1. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 20, 1988: Picher Orel Hershiser (L) of the Los Angeles Dodgers is lifted in the air with jubilation by catcher Rick Dempsey (R) while teammates Jeff Hamilton #33 and Mickey Hatcher #9 rush to the scene after Hershiser pitched a complete game to win game 5 and the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics, October 20, 1988 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Dodgers won the series 4-1. Hershiser was the series MVP and played for the Dodgers from 1983-94, 2000. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 20, 1988: Picher Orel Hershiser (L) of the Los Angeles Dodgers is lifted in the air by catcher Rick Dempsey (R) while teammates Mickey Hatcher and Tracy Woodson #21 Jump with jubilation after Hershiser pitched a complete game to win game 5 and the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics, October 20, 1988 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Dodgers won the series 4-1. Hershiser was the series MVP and played for the Dodgers from 1983-94, 2000. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 20: Franklin Stubbs #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers receives a champagne shower in the clubhouse after winning the World Series against the Oakland Athletics on October 20, 1988 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Dodgers won the game 5-2 and won the series 4-1. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
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DODGERS UNITE ANGELENOS

"The Dodgers have always been something that brings the immigrant community together," said Tessie Borden, an organizer of Indivisible Highland Park, a group that advocates for illegal immigrants.

"Their success is important now because it's something joyful and something everyone can agree on," she said.

"You can be on any side of the immigration issue and still be a Dodgers fan."

A native of Nayarit, Mexico, Avelica-Gonzalez was drawn to the Dodgers because of Mexican pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, the Dodgers ace who spent 17 seasons in the big leagues and who became a naturalized American citizen after he retired.

Valenzuela made a surprise appearance before Game Two of the World Series on Wednesday in Los Angeles to throw out the first pitch.

"He is a very dear to all Mexicans," Avelica-Gonzalez said.

Before even coming to Los Angeles, Avelica-Gonzalez was a fan of the team.

He listened to the Dodgers win their last World Series in 1988 on the radio in Mexico and dreamed of seeing the team play live.

He remains a loyal fan, proudly displaying photos of his children with notable Dodgers including Rich Hill and Austin Barnes from public appearances they made last year.

He said that as much as he wants to see the Dodgers win the title, he knows the battle taking place off the field has even higher stakes.

"We have to be united and raise our voices to defend the immigrant community," Avelica-Gonzalez said.

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