National City, CA - Video has gone viral that appears to show Border Patrol agents grabbing an illegal immigrant, tearing her away from her children. U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) says there's actually much more to the story.
Video of Perla Morales-Luna's arrest on March 3rd was posted to social media and within a day it gathered more than 10 million views.
The media reaction was one of outrage.
Time Magazine ran an article titled, “Video of Mother Being Torn From Daughters by Border Patrol Sparks Outrage.”
An anchor for KCAL-TV, the CBS Los Angeles TV station, reported this accompanying the video: “This is hard to watch for some, a woman hauled away by border patrol in a busy street corner in Southern California. Children can be heard shouting and crying during that dramatic arrest.”
However, the U.S. Customs & Border Protection San Diego division issued the statement that said that Morales-Luna was arrested after she was identified as an organizer for a human smuggling operation, according to KPBS-TV.
CBP said that Morales-Luna recruited drivers to transport illegal immigrants from a remote border area in eastern San Diego County to a stash house in National City as part of a larger criminal organization.
Others involved with the criminal organization were also arrested in January after a smuggling event.
Morales-Luna eluded capture in January, the border patrol said. She refused to surrender despite direct phone conversations between her and Border Patrol agents.
CBP stated that since she was not in the country legally, she was deemed a flight risk. So they targeted her for arrest.
Morales-Luna refused to comply with the agents’ commands during her arrest.
U.S. Border Patrol said that when she was confronted, she tried to run into a nearby vehicle. The video shows her clearly resisting arrest.
The arresting agents ensured that Morales-Luna was able to arrange for her sister to take custody of her three children, CBP said.
CBP said that Morales-Luna has been processed for removal from the U.S.
A written statement from CBP said:
During the arrest on March 3, 2018, Ms. Morales-Luna refused to comply with the agents' commands and physically resisted while attempting to abscond into a nearby vehicle. The video clearly shows the arresting agents carried out their duties appropriately, even when faced with a barrage of insults and confrontational agitators.
Ms. Morales-Luna was the only subject of this operation. Therefore, once she was in custody, agents immediately departed the area. The arresting agents ensured that Ms. Morales-Luna was able to arrange for her sister to take custody of her three children.
The United States Border Patrol is committed to dismantling transnational criminal organizations who profit from cross-border smuggling of humans, dangerous narcotics, weapons and other illicit contraband. Anyone that the U.S. Border Patrol can identify as part of these criminal organizations will be arrested and presented to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution. In the case of an illegal alien, they may be processed for removal from the United States in lieu of prosecution.
KPBS-TV reported that Morales-Luna's attorney, Andrés Moreno II, denied the accusations of Morales-Luna being a human smuggler.
In response to Morales-Luna’s arrest, KPBS reported that National City residents were going to meet to set up neighborhood watch groups and other measures to warn people of Border Patrol activities.
You can see the video of the arrest below: