Update, 8/19: ICE subsequently stated that Joel Arrona is wanted by the Mexican government on homicide charges. A legal representative for Arrona told the Washington Post that “he believed his client was not suspected of crimes within the United States, and denies criminal charges in Mexico.”
A California man just wanted to stop for gas as he drove his pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth. Instead, Joel Arrona is now in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement custody, and a newborn baby is separated from his father.
According to CBS2 News in Los Angeles, ICE officers approached Arrona and Maria del Carmen Venegas at the gas station Wednesday. Venegas, who has five children, told the news channel that the officers asked her and Arrona for identification. After Arrona told officers he had left his identification at his nearby residence, the officers placed Arrona into custody. Venegas then drove herself to the hospital to deliver the baby. She told CBS2 that her husband had never been in stopped before and didn’t have a criminal record.
“My husband needs to be here,” Venegas told CBS2. “He had to wait for his son for so long, and someone just took him away.”
In a statement, ICE said:
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 (EOIR).
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. 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.
During the Trump administration, there has been a surge in ICE arrests of undocumented immigrants without criminal records using routine stops and sweeps. NBC News reported this week that arrests of noncriminal immigrants by immigration officers more than tripled during Trump’s first 14 months in office. By comparison, ICE arrests of immigrants with past criminal convictions grew 18 percent over the same period.
During that time, the Trump administration has engaged in a so-called zero-tolerance crackdown on illegal border crossings, resulting in the separation of children from their parents and then in a chaotic reunification process. More than 550 children remain separated from their parents.