ICE says man taken while rushing pregnant wife to hospital is wanted for murder in Mexico

September 5, 2018

A man detained by U.S. immigration officials while rushing his wife to a California hospital for the birth of their fifth child was wanted in Mexico on homicide charges, authorities now say.

Joel Arrona-Lara, 36, was taken into custody Wednesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at a gas station in San Bernardino. Surveillance video from the station shows Arrona-Lara being taken away in handcuffs.

The arrest set off the latest in a series of firestorms over the zero tolerance immigration policies of President Trump. ICE initially issued a statement noting that no one is exempt from deportation and “all of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and” removal from the United States.

On Saturday, ICE released a statement saying Arrona-Lara “was brought to ICE’s attention due to an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges.”

No details of the warrant were released. His wife, María del Carmen Venegas, 32, says the warrant was the result of a misunderstanding. The family’s legal representative, Emilio Amaya of the Community Services Center of San Bernardino, says he has been unable to find any legal proceedings against his client in Mexico.

Amaya says he will seek Arrona-Lara’s release this week.

“They (ICE agents) left her at the gas station to fend for herself,” Amaya said of Carmen Venegas. “The hospital is about two miles from the gas station. She actually ended up driving by herself to the hospital.”

Carmen Venegas says she and her husband have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years. She says her husband was taking her to the hospital for a cesarean section on Wednesday when agents walked up to the car and asked the couple for identification.

She told CNN she is undocumented but did provide a driver’s license. Her husband had left their nearby home in a hurry and did not have his with him, she said. ICE agents denied her husband’s request to return home for his ID, she said.

“I never thought that they would take him like that, handcuff him, and that they would leave me stranded at the gas station,” she said.

Carmen Venegas gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Arrona-Lara remained in detention at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange County, Amaya said.

“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 told NBC Los Angeles in Spanish. “They told me they were only doing their job.”

Update hourly