San Bernardino, CA – Immigration Custom and Enforcement Fugitive Operations Team officers successfully apprehended an illegal alien wanted for homicide, after they intercepted his vehicle as he was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital for a planned Cesarean section.
Widespread media reports about the arrest have generated outrage that a man would be arrested while taking his wife to the hospital.
Joel Arrona-Lara, 36, and his wife, Maria Del Carmen Venegas, 32, stopped at a gas station on Wednesday as they traveled to the hospital for the scheduled birth of their fifth child, ABC News reported.
ICE officers in SUVs immediately surrounded the couple and asked them for their identification, according to KCBS reported.
Venegas complied with their request, but Arrona-Lara said he forgot his at home in his rush to get his wife to her scheduled appointment.
He explained that he lived nearby, and offered to go get his identification for the officers.
Arrona-Lara was subsequently arrested in what ICE officials described as a “targeted detainment,” according to KCBS.
Venegas, who is also in the country illegally, then drove herself to her Cesarean section appointment, and delivered a healthy baby boy, ABC News reported.
The couple’s other four children – who range in age between two and 13 – were also born in the United States.
Following Arrona-Lara’s arrest, the couple’s attorney, Emilio Amaya Garcia, claimed that the ICE agents appeared to have approached the couple at random at the gas station, and that they arrested him for not having his identification with him, ABC News reported.
“[I asked], 'Why are you taking my husband?' and they said somebody had reported us,” Venegas said. “And I said, 'No, how is that possible?' I said, ‘We are hard workers.’”
“It is very hard because he was always there," she continued. "And he would say everything will be OK and not to worry, that we will meet the baby. And for me to be alone it feels brutal."
Venegas said her husband has no criminal history, has never been issued a ticket, that he has never been stopped by police, KCBS reported.
But on Saturday evening, ICE officials shed even more light on the illegal alien’s arrest.
"Mr. Arrona-Lara was brought to ICE’s attention due to an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges," the agency said in a statement, according to ABC News. “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. Mr. Arrona-Lara is currently in ICE custody pending removal proceedings with the Executive Office for Immigration Review."
Garcia maintained his claim that his client was “unaware of any criminal proceedings in Mexico in which he is named as a defendant,” ABC News reported.
“The family denies allegations as well. In the charging documents he is charged with being in the country without documents. He is not in extradition proceedings,” Garcia added. He said he plans to ask the court to release Arrona-Lara on bail.
Venegas said that she and Arrona-Lara having been living in the United States illegally for the past 12 years, FOX News reported.
“My husband needs to be here,” she told KCBS. “He had to wait for his son for so long, and someone just took him away.”
Garcia said he was concerned about how the homicide suspect’s wife was affected by his arrest, and noted that she had been diagnosed with preeclampsia, The Washington Post reported.
“They left her alone,” Garcia told the paper. “They put the well-being and safety of the mother and baby at risk.”
A fundraising account established to assist the couple had raised over $6,600 as of Sunday morning.