The scene is the Los Angeles Marathon. The girl is 13-year-old Fatima Avelica. In under 7 hours, she had finished all 26.2 miles of the race that took place last Sunday. She had imagined her dad cheering her on at the end of the race; instead, her father Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez had been arrested by immigration officers on February 28th after dropping her younger sister off at school. The moment was recorded on her phone, and has been seen around the world. Fatima faithfully trained with her father for the marathon, and although he wasn’t able to show his support directly, he still called multiple times for updates. Fatima’s case is gut-wrenching, yet it’s not an outlier: 7.3% of all K-12 students are children of undocumented immigrants, according to a Pew Research Center estimate on 2014 data.
Jocelyn, Fatima’s older sister, told KTLA that her family wasn’t prepared for what happened to her father. Fatima’s school had an assembly the day her father was detained to discuss what happened and stand in solidarity with the family. Academia Avance, the school that the Avelica sisters attend, is highlighting the Avelicas’ experience to encourage other students and families to talk about immigration, immigration status, and what to do in case an undocumented person is detained.
Fatima is teaching us that you have to keep your head up and continue running until the end.