Maria del Carmen Venegas, 32, and her husband, Joel Arrona Lara, 35, were driving to the hospital Wednesday so Venegas could give birth when they stopped for gas in San Bernardino.
After they pulled into the gas station, two vehicles pulled up next to the couple's van and agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement questioned them and asked for identification, according to Venegas.
Venegas provided identification but Lara left his at their house so ICE handcuffed him and took him away, leaving Venegas to drive herself to the hospital alone.
ICE is now facing backlash for detaining Lara and leaving Venegas to undergo her scheduled c-section alone.
But in a statement issued Saturday afternoon, ICE said Lara had a warrant for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges.
ICE said agents with the agency’s Fugitive Operations Team detained Lara on Wednesday and said he remained in custody pending removal proceedings.
The Fugitive Operations Team prioritizes arresting immigrants who are transnational gang members, child sex offenders and those who’ve had previous convictions for violent crimes, however 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.
According to Emilio Amaya, executive director of the San Bernardino Community Service Center, which is providing legal services to the family, Lara was unaware that Mexican authorities had sought to prosecute him for any crime.
Venegas said she and her husband came to the U.S. 12 years ago from Mexico and do not have legal authorization to live in the U.S. All five of their children are U.S. citizens.
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