UPDATE: Aug. 19 ― A California man who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday while taking his pregnant wife to a hospital was wanted in Mexico for homicide, authorities said.
Joel Arrona-Lara, 36, was arrested after agents uncovered an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico, which is where he is a citizen, a representative for ICE said in a statement to HuffPost on Sunday.
His legal defense team has said that it will continue to seek his release and that the allegations against him in Mexico are unconfirmed.
ICE officers in two SUVs stopped Joel Arrona-Lara at a San Bernardino gas station, a Los Angeles CBS affiliate reported. While his wife, Maria del Carmen Venegas, was able to provide identification, Arrona-Lara was not, but the couple offered to retrieve it from their home nearby. Venegas told Univision they tried to explain that they left their house in a hurry. But the ICE officers immediately took Arrona-Lara into custody.
Venegas was left behind at the gas station and appeared visibly upset in security footage. She then drove the rest of the way herself, giving birth to the couple’s son by Caesarian section alone.
An ICE representative confirmed the detention in a statement to HuffPost describing Arrona-Lara as a Mexican citizen living in the United States without documents.
As of Friday, Venegas and the newborn ― her fifth child ― were still at the hospital without Arrona-Lara.
“I feel very bad right now,” Venegas told CBS2 News while holding her son. “My husband needs to be here. He had to wait for his son for so long, and someone just took him away.”
She told Univision that her husband had never been in trouble with law enforcement. He hadn’t even received a ticket, she added.
“We don’t know what happened,” she said.
Arrona-Lara is being held at an immigrant detention center in downtown Los Angeles, Univision reported. ICE stated that the Executive Office for Immigration Review has begun removal proceedings.
“ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” the agency said in a statement.
“ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. However, ICE will 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.”
Emilio Amaya García, director of the Community Services Center of San Bernardino who is representing Arrona-Lara, told Univision that the incident illustrates the Trump administration’s “lack of sensitivity” in enforcing its zero tolerance policy on immigration.
“In this case, not only could they have endangered the life of the mother, but also that of the child, who is a citizen of this country,” García told the outlet in Spanish.