SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — A 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.
Video of Perla Morales-Luna's arrest was posted on Facebook and has gone viral.
The government says she is in the country illegally and accuses her of running a smuggling operation in East County.
The video, which already has 9 million views, shows Morales-Luna being taken into custody by plainclothes U.S. Border Patrol agents at 24th and D streets in National City.
Judith Castro, the teacher of one of Morales-Luna's three young daughters posted the video, which she says was taken by the daughter herself as she witnessed her mother being arrested.
"It was very emotional to watch," said Castro.
National City Councilmember Alejandra Sotelo-Solis says she did not witness the arrest, but in speaking with those close to the family has learned that Morales-Luna and her daughters had been on their way to pay rent when a man dressed in civilian clothes approached, asked her name and then took her into custody.
"When I heard the screams of the daughters, I felt sadness, I felt frustration and then I was infuriated," said Sotelo-Solis.
The following is a statement from the United States Border Patrol, San Diego:
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.
Facebook video post of Perla Morales-Luna's arrest
(Source: Facebook - Judith Castro-Rangel)