Protests erupt in National City after Border Patrol arrests mother in front of children
Update to the original report:
NATIONAL CITY (KUSI) — A planned protest was held Friday morning outside City Hall offices in National City a day after a video began circulating on social media showing a mother being snatched off a National City street and hauled away by federal authorities in front of her frantic, crying daughters.
The arrest by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, who claim the mother was part of a criminal smuggling ring, happened last Saturday, but two videos of the arrest began garnering widespread attention Thursday on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
In both videos, the woman’s three daughters can be heard crying and screaming as Border Patrol officers dressed in plain clothes drag the woman into a marked Border Patrol SUV.
In response to the video, a San Diego-area Border Patrol spokesman issued a statement saying Perla Morales-Luna was “an organizer for a transnational criminal smuggling organization operating in East County.”
“She was arrested as a result of a targeted operation on March 3, 2018, in National City for being in the country illegally,” Agent Michael J. Scappechio said. “She is currently in Border Patrol custody awaiting transfer to (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) for removal proceedings.”
Friday afternoon, the United States Border Patrol, San Diego Sector released the following information regarding Morales-Luna’s arrest:
Perla Morales-Luna was identified as a human smuggling facilitator who recruited drivers to transport illegal aliens from a remote border area in Eastern San Diego County to a stash house in National City as part of a larger transnational criminal organization. Other individuals associated with this criminal organization were arrested shortly after a smuggling event transpired in January of 2018 near Boulevard, California. Ms. Morales-Luna eluded arrest at that time, and despite direct phone conversations between her and U.S. Border Patrol agents, she refused to self-surrender to authorities. Due to her unwillingness to self-surrender and the fact that she was an illegal alien present in the United States she was deemed a flight risk and a targeted enforcement operation was approved for her arrest.
During the arrest on March 3, 2018, Ms. Morales-Luna refused to comply with the agents’ commands and physically resisted while attempting to abscond into a nearby vehicle. The video clearly shows the arresting agents carried out their duties appropriately, even when faced with a barrage of insults and confrontational agitators.
Ms. Morales-Luna was the only subject of this operation. Therefore, once she was in custody, agents immediately departed the area. The arresting agents ensured that Ms. Morales-Luna was able to arrange for her sister to take custody of her three children.
The United States Border Patrol is committed to dismantling transnational criminal organizations who profit from cross-border smuggling of humans, dangerous narcotics, weapons and other illicit contraband. Anyone that the U.S. Border Patrol can identify as part of these criminal organizations will be arrested and presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution. In the case of an illegal alien, they may be processed for removal from the United States in lieu of prosecution.
Ms. Morales-Luna has been processed for removal, issued a Notice to Appear and transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement Removal Operations. She will have a hearing before an Immigration Judge who will make the final decision in this case.