Man gets arrested by ICE agents en route to hospital with pregnant wife, leaving her to drive there on her own
An ICE spokesperson said that Joel Arrona-Lara had been taken into custody because of “an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges.”
A man was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on Wednesday while he was on the way to the hospital with his pregnant wife, reports said. The husband and his wife's legal representative told multiple media outlets, including People magazine, that the wife was due to give birth when the incident took place.
Joel Arrona-Lara, 35, was on his way to the hospital for a planned cesarean section with his wife Maria del Carmen Venegas, 32, when they were reportedly approached by agents after the duo stopped at a gas station in San Bernadino, California.
“I never thought that they would take him like that, handcuff him, and that they would leave me stranded at the gas station,” Venegas told NBC Los Angeles in Spanish.
ICE agents initially said Arrona-Lara was arrested for being in the US illegally. It wasn't until hours later, amid public backlash, did they say he was wanted in Mexico for murder. “Mr. Arrona-Lara was brought to ICE’s attention due to an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges,” the second statement said.
Venegas says the charges are "a misunderstanding" in Mexico. In another interview with The New York Times, Venegas claimed that the ICE agents approached them when they stopped for gas, and asked to see their identification. However, her husband did not have his driver’s license on him at the time.
Surveillance footage clearly shows Arrona-Lara being handcuffed and taken away from the gas station while his wife is captured on camera as she broke down in tears. “I asked them why they separate good people, why they weren’t arresting people who do bad things, and I asked them to let us go,” Venegas shared with NBC Los Angeles. “They told me they were only doing their job.”
“[ICE agents] left her at the gas station to fend for herself,” Emilio Amaya of the Community Services Center of San Bernardino, who is also the person representing Arrona-Lara, told USA Today. “The hospital is about two miles from the gas station. She actually ended up driving by herself to the hospital.”
Amaya also contested ICE’s account that Arrona-Lara is wanted for homicide in his home country. He said the paperwork from ICE does not mention homicide.
“According to the family, he has no criminal history in Mexico, and we did our own search through Mexican channels and we didn’t find anything under his name,” Amaya told New York Times.
Venegas later gave birth to a baby boy in the absence of her husband. The newborn's father, Arrona-Lara, is yet to meet his son since the father of five is currently being held at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange, California.
ICE's statement failed to make any mentions of Venegas’ medical condition, something that Amaya said was not a concern to officers during the arrest. “Even though the officers knew that she was pregnant, they didn’t really care and they still proceeded to do the arrest,” she explained.
“So for us, on top of the unjustified arrest is the fact that they compromised the well-being of the child and the wife.” A lot of media outlets also noticed that ICE's statement did not mention any of the alleged homicide charges.
Both Venegas and her husband have been in the United States for about a decade. Venegas told media outlets that she and her husband are from Guanajuato, Mexico. They knew each other as kids and got married in Mexico. Her husband came to the US 12 years ago, and she followed him two years later.