Spouse of pregnant woman detained on way to birth

‘WE NEED HIM’::ICE agents detained Joel Arrona Lara, who has been living in the US for 12 years, on an outstanding arrest warrant for homicide charges in Mexico


Mon, Aug 20, 2018 - Page 5

A California woman on Saturday said that she had to drive herself to the hospital and give birth without her husband after he was detained by US immigration agents.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said the man was detained because he was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant in a homicide case in Mexico.

Maria del Carmen Venegas said she and her husband, Joel Arrona Lara, were driving to the hospital on Wednesday when they stopped for gas in San Bernardino, just east of Los Angeles.

Surveillance footage shows two vehicles immediately flanking the couple’s van after they pulled into the gas station.

ICE agents questioned the couple and asked for identification, Venegas said.

Venegas, 32, said she provided hers, but that Arrona had left his at home in their rush to the hospital.

The surveillance footage shows the agents handcuffing the 35-year-old Arrona and taking him away, leaving a sobbing Venegas alone at the gas station.

Venegas said she drove herself to the hospital for a scheduled cesarean section for the birth of her fifth child.

“I feel terrible,” Venegas said in a telephone interview from the hospital as her newborn son, Damian, cried in the background.

“We need him now more than ever,” she said.

Venegas said she and her husband came to the US 12 years ago from the city of Leon in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato.

They do not have legal authorization to live in the US and all five of their children are US citizens, she said.

Venegas said her husband is a hard worker and the sole provider of the family.

Arrona “was brought to ICE’s attention due to an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges,” ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said in a statement issued on Saturday afternoon.

Fugitive Operations Team agents detained Arrona on Wednesday, ICE said, adding that he remained in custody pending removal proceedings.

Although the team prioritizes arresting immigrants who are transnational gang members, child sex offenders and those who have had previous convictions for violent crimes, the agency’s statement said it “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,” the statement said.

Emilio Amaya Garcia, director of the San Bernardino Community Service Center, said his non-profit group is providing legal help to Venegas and Arrona.

The group will file a motion today for an immigration court to set a bail hearing for Arrona and will ask that his removal proceedings be canceled, Garcia said.