An immigrant in the U.S. illegally who was detained by federal immigration officers in San Bernardino this week while he was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital had an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges, authorities said Saturday.
Joel Arrona-Lara was driving his wife, Maria del Carmen Venegas, to a local hospital Wednesday for her scheduled cesarean section when he was apprehended by Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents.
“Mr. Arrona-Lara was brought to ICE’s attention due to an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges,” ICE said in a statement. He is currently in custody pending removal proceedings.
Venegas and her family could not be reached for comment.
Security video obtained by KCBS-TV shows two SUVs blocking the couple’s vehicle as they tried to park at the gas station Wednesday. Venegas said ICE agents emerged from the vehicles and asked for their identification. She pulled out her ID, but her husband said he had left his at home.
Venegas told KCBS that agents asked her husband to exit the vehicle. They searched the car for weapons, and the video shows two agents alongside Arrona-Lara with his hands cuffed behind his back.
An emotional Venegas, with her belly burgeoning beneath her shirt, is seen talking on a cellphone inside the gas station.
The mother of five drove herself to the hospital and delivered a healthy baby boy without her husband at her side.
Later, in a hospital bed holding the sleeping newborn, she recalled the confusion surrounding her husband’s arrest.
She said her husband had no criminal history, and never even had a traffic ticket.
“My husband needs to be here,” she told the TV station in Spanish. “He had to wait for his son for so long, and someone just took him away.”
The family is working on hiring an attorney to petition for Arrona-Lara’s release, KCBS reported.
On Saturday, ICE issued a statement, saying it “continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy.”
ICE, under Trump administration orders, has taken a harder line on immigration enforcement.
The agency said it would “no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States,” the statement said.