Father-to-be Joel Arrona was about to meet his infant son when ICE agents apprehended him.
Arrona stopped for gas in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday while driving his pregnant wife, Maria del Carmen Venegas, to a local hospital for a scheduled C-section. ICE agents approached the car while it was parked at the gas station and asked the couple to present their identification. When Arrona said he didn’t have his ID with him, the agents took him into custody.
Security footage from the gas station obtained by CBS Los Angeles shows ICE agents leading away Arrona in handcuffs. The footage also shows Venegas frantically calling for assistance in the gas station’s convenience store.
Venegas drove herself the rest of the way to the hospital. She gave birth alone.
Venegas told CBS Los Angeles her husband has never been stopped by police and has never been in trouble with the law before.
ICE has previously claimed its enforcement operations are focused on immigrants who pose a security risk to the country, like people with violent criminal records.
But now, according to ICE officials, “no population is off the table” and agents will go after any undocumented immigrants who enter the country illegally. Under the Trump administration, there has been an increase in arrests of undocumented immigrants who have no history of breaking criminal laws.
The agency reinforced that point in its public statement about Arrona.
“Mr. Arrona-Lara, a citizen of Mexico illegally residing in the United States, was taken into custody Wednesday by ICE Fugitive Operations Team officers in San Bernardino, Calif,” ICE said in a media statement issued on Friday.
“ICE 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. However, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” the statement continued. “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.”
Arrona joins a long list of immigrants who have been detained in the course of their daily activities, such as paying traffic tickets, filing for protective orders, and showing up for court appearances. The ACLU recently alleged that ICE agents are essentially laying traps for undocumented immigrants seeking legal status, waiting to take them into custody outside of government offices.
“My husband needs to be here,” Venegas, a mother of five, told CBS Los Angeles. “He had to wait for his son for so long, and someone just took him away.”
UPDATE: After this story was published, ICE said in a statement that Arrona was taken into custody because he is a suspect in a homicide case in Mexico, where a warrant had been issued for his arrest. ICE said he is being held at a detention facility in Orange County.