A California woman had to drive herself to the hospital and give birth without her husband after he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on the way to the emergency room. The couple, Maria del Carmen Venegas and Joel Arrona-Lara, had pulled into a gas station in San Bernardino, California, on their way to deliver their baby. It was there that ICE officers came to their car window and asked for identification but according to the New York Times, Arrona-Lara didn’t have his driver’s license with him and officers arrested him. But according to ICE officials the man was detained because he was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant in a homicide case in Mexico.
A couple was stopped by immigration authorities during a gas stop on the way to the hospital.
Surveillance footage shows ICE agents detaining a man in California stopped at a gas station who was bringing his pregnant wife to the hospital for the delivery of their baby. https://t.co/NrzXyHktdH pic.twitter.com/kesN7U37aW
— ABC News (@ABC) August 18, 2018
Venegas, who was getting a cesarean section, told KCBS that ICE agents asked her husband to exit their car. They then searched the vehicle for weapons, the security video shows two agents alongside Arrona-Lara with his hands cuffed behind his back. The mother of five then drove herself to the hospital and delivered a baby boy without her husband at her side.
“I never thought that they would take him like that, handcuff him, and that they would leave me stranded at the gas station,” MCarmen Venegas, told NBC Los Angeles.
ICE originally said Arrona-Lara was arrested because he was in the U.S illegally not because of a homicide warrant for him in Mexico.
Important update: ICE said today that this man was arrested because of a homicide warrant for him in Mexico. ICE didn’t mention this in its comments to media yesterday. His lawyer says he denies that there are such Mexico charges; no details from ICE yet. https://t.co/AnIfv8DapM
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) August 19, 2018
After news of the arrest came out Saturday afternoon, ICE officials released previously undisclosed details about Arrona-Lara’s arrest. He is wanted in Mexico under a warrant issued for homicide charges, ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said in a public statement, which brought the attention of agents.
Emilio Amaya of the Community Services Center of San Bernardino, who is representing Arrona-Lara, told KCBS he has not been able to confirm ICE’s claim that his client is wanted on homicide charges. Arrona-Lara’s detention papers indicate he is in custody for being in the U.S. without documentation.
“According to the family, he has no criminal history in Mexico, and we did our own search through Mexican channels and we didn’t find anything under his name,” Amaya told the New York Times. Arrona Lara has no criminal record in the United States, according to Amaya.
The agency’s policy says that it concentrates on people who “pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”
Imagine – if you will – a world where nobody could be detained when they stopped to get gas while taking their wife to the hospital so she could give birth.https://t.co/3eJv6Pmrwv
— Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) August 18, 2018
“ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy,” Haley said in the statement. She declined to say whether the ICE agents considered delaying Arrona-Lara’s arrest until after the birth or could have escorted Venegas to the hospital, given her condition.
There are still many questions concerning the arrest and people want answers now.
I don’t care if that guy arrested by ICE while driving his pregnant wife to the hospital was a goddamned serial killer, those agents didn’t need to make a woman in labor *drive herself to the hospital* after they arrested the father of her children.
— erinspace (@erinscafe) August 19, 2018
Reaction online has condemned ICE for the arrest and the way it has handled criticism. Some are upset that ICE officials never mentioned the homicide charges in the original arrest and only after the backlash.
ICE has ramped up arrests under the Trump administration following executive orders that directed the agency to pursue any undocumented person in the country. For instance, the administration in March rescinded an Obama-era directive that generally ordered immigration officials to release pregnant women from custody.