An arrest by the U.S. Border Patrol has stirred up outrage in the activist community as a purported example of how President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement policies are unjustly tearing immigrant families apart.
Viral videos posted to Facebook and YouTube on Thursday show Border Patrol agents — some in uniform and some in plain clothes — seizing Perla Morales-Luna as she was walking with her daughters in National City, California, last week.
She is then hustled into the back of a waiting Border Patrol SUV while bystanders plead with agents to release her.
Activists and media organizations immediately seized on the videos as more evidence of heavy-handed immigration enforcement under the Trump administration, which has been accused of breaking up families by detaining illegal immigrant parents.
Immigrant rights groups say the episode shows how immigration agents have a free hand to arrest mothers and fathers who are not threats to public safety.
“It’s really a grotesque way of detaining and enforcing immigration law,” Benjamin Prado, coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee’s San Diego U.S.-Mexico Border Program, told the Los Angles Times.
“It is very quickly accelerating to a very tyrannical form of detention and arrest, snatching people up off the street.”
Morales-Luna is not just an otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrant.
She is also a member of a Southern California-based human smuggling ring, according to Customs and Border Protection.
“Perla Morales-Luna was identified as an organizer for a transnational criminal smuggling organization operating in East County, San Diego,” the agency’s San Diego field division said in a statement.
“She was arrested as a result of a targeted operation on March 3, 2018, in National City for being in the country illegally. She is currently in Border Patrol custody awaiting transfer to ICE for removal proceedings.”
It remains unclear if Morales-Luna will face criminal charges.
She is expected to be placed in deportation proceedings after CBP transfers her to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
News of Morales-Luna’s arrest comes as the Trump administration and California are locked in a legal and political battle over the state’s sanctuary policies.
The Department of Justice sued California Tuesday, along with Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Xavier Becerra, both Democrats.
The state’s laws constitute a “significant intrusion into federal enforcement of the immigration laws,” the DOJ argues.
California officials say none of the laws prevent immigration authorities from doing their jobs.
They have also argued that the federal government cannot require state and local jurisdictions to enforce federal law.
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