SAN DIEGO (AP) — Video of a woman being pulled away from her weeping daughters on a California street and shoved into a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle has sparked criticism of the way federal agents are enforcing immigration laws.
The Border Patrol said Perla Morales-Luna was identified as an organizer for a transnational criminal smuggling organization and was arrested for being in the country illegally.
The arrest March 3 in National City, a community south of San Diego, was described as “grotesque” by Benjamin Prado, coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee’s San Diego U.S.-Mexico Border Program.
Prado told the Los Angeles Times the arrest occurred as the woman was walking with her three daughters near her home.
“It is very quickly accelerating to a very tyrannical form of detention and arrest, snatching people up off the street,” he said of the enforcement strategy.
Prado said he’s concerned about the “terror” the woman’s daughters suffered. They are now being cared for by an uncle, he said.
The Border Patrol, which characterized the arrest as a “targeted operation,” said Thursday that Morales-Luna was in the agency’s custody awaiting transfer to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for removal proceedings.
An attorney for Morales-Luna did not immediately respond to a request from The Associated Press for comment.
Her arrest drew the social media spotlight amid heightened focus on immigrants who are in the county illegally.
The Trump administration sued this week to block a California law that limits local police cooperation with federal immigration agents.
The administration contends the law impedes removal of criminals, but supporters of sanctuary laws characterize them as public safety measures and assert that police need cooperation from immigrant communities to fight crime.
Fears of ramped-up deportation efforts recently led Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to issue a public warning of an impending immigration sweep, saying the city would “continue to inform all residents about their constitutional rights.”
President Donald Trump plans to visit California next week to examine prototypes of the wall he pledges to build along the U.S.-Mexico border.