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They were on their way to the hospital to have a baby when ICE took dad away

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with information on a warrant issued for Joel Arrona-Lara’s arrest in Mexico.

A 36-year-old undocumented immigrant could be deported after being apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while driving his pregnant wife to the hospital to deliver their baby.

Instead of being with his wife at the hospital after the planned cesarean section delivery Wednesday afternoon, Joel Arrona-Lara was being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an ICE statement said, according to a translated report by KMEX, a Spanish-language TV station in Los Angeles.

On Saturday, ICE reported that Arrona-Lara had been sought on an outstanding warrant from Mexico on suspicion of homicide.

Arrona-Lara was driving María del Carmen Venegas to the hospital in San Bernardino, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, where the procedure was scheduled, the station reported, when they pulled into a gas station to refuel. The report said ICE agents tapped on the window of the couple’s vehicle and ultimately told Arrona-Lara to get out.

“I [asked] them why they separated good people like that,” Venegas said, according to a translated version of a report by Spanish language station KVEA. “Why they did not arrest people who are bad and do bad things, let us go, but they told me that they were only doing their job. I never thought ... that they would take him away, that they would hand him over, and that they would leave me at the gas station.”

Security video from outside the gas station, posted online with the KVEA report, shows agents dressed in jackets emblazoned with “POLICE” leading a handcuffed Arrona-Lara into an SUV. Inside the gas station, footage shows a distraught Venegas talking on a cellphone and pointing as her husband is taken away.


The couple has lived together in Southern California for 12 years and have four other children, KVEA reported.

Venegas drove herself the rest of the way to the hospital, the station reported, but was hours late for her scheduled appointment and was told by doctors she had elevated blood pressure at the time she arrived. Her husband, 36, is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, the report 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.,” ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley wrote in a statement. “Mr. Arrona-Lara is currently in ICE custody pending removal proceedings with the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

“ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” the statement continued. “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.”


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