A California woman said Saturday that she had to drive herself to the hospital and give birth without her husband after he was detained by immigration agents.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 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 Wednesday when they stopped for gas in San Bernardino, just east of Los Angeles.
Surveillance footage shows two vehicles immediately flank the couple’s van after they pulled into the gas station. Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 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 U.S. 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 U.S., and all five of their children are U.S. citizens, she said.
Venegas said her husband is a hard worker and the sole provider of the family.
In a statement issued Saturday afternoon, Immigration and Custom Enforcement said Arrona “was brought to ICE’s attention due to an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges,” spokeswoman Lori Haley said.
ICE said agents with the agency’s Fugitive Operations Team detained Arrona on Wednesday and said he remained in custody pending removal proceedings.
Though the team prioritizes arresting immigrants who are transnational gang members, child sex offenders and those who’ve 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 nonprofit group is providing legal help to Venegas and Arrona, will file a motion on Monday for an immigration court to set a bail hearing for Arrona and will ask that his removal proceedings be canceled.
Garcia did not respond to messages and calls for comment about the arrest warrant in Mexico.
Original Story from CNN:
A California woman is demanding answers after she says federal immigration authorities detained her husband as he was trying to take her to the hospital to give birth.
Maria Del Carmen Venegas held back tears as she tells reporters she’s doing bad at the moment and that’s when you most need your husband.
The mother of five just gave birth on Wednesday, the same day her husband, Joel Arrona, was detained by ICE agents.
She was on the way to the hospital with her husband at the time. She was heading there for a pre-planned C-section.
Surveillance video shows the couple at the gas station when two cars surround her vehicle. She says they were ICE agents.
She says they asked her for her ID so she gave it to them and then they asked about her husband’s ID She says she told the agents he didn’t have his with him but they lived close and they could get it if they needed it.
She says that when the agents had him step out of the vehicle to check for weapons, he got out of the car and they put him into custody.
You can see in the surveillance video that Venegas was hysterical and had no idea what was going on.
Venegas said her husband has no criminal history and that police never stopped him and he’s never had a ticket.
Venegas was forced to drive herself to the hospital. Shortly after she arrived, she gave birth to her baby boy.
While physically Joel is OK, this mother is living a nightmare.
She said her husband needs to be with her and that he had to wait for his son for so long and someone just took him away.
In a statement, ICE says Arrona is a Mexican citizen living illegally in the United States.