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Migrant spouse of pregnant woman detained on way to hospital

Migrant spouse of pregnant woman detained on way to hospital

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By AMANDA LEE MYERS , Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California woman said Saturday that she had to drive herself to the hospital and give birth without her husband after he was detained by immigration agents.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said the man was detained because he was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant in a homicide case in Mexico.

Maria del Carmen Venegas said she and her husband, Joel Arrona Lara, were driving to the hospital Wednesday when they stopped for gas in San Bernardino, just east of Los Angeles.

Surveillance footage shows two vehicles immediately flank the couple's van after they pulled into the gas station. Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement questioned the couple and asked for identification, Venegas said.

Venegas, 32, said she provided hers but that Arrona had left his at home in their rush to the hospital. The surveillance footage shows the agents handcuffing the 35-year-old Arrona and taking him away, leaving a sobbing Venegas alone at the gas station.

Venegas said she drove herself to the hospital for a scheduled cesarean section for the birth of her fifth child.

"I feel terrible," Venegas said in a telephone interview from the hospital as her newborn son Damian cried in the background.

"We need him now more than ever," she said.

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Venegas said she and her husband came to the U.S. 12 years ago from the city of Leon in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. They do not have legal authorization to live in the U.S., and all five of their children are U.S. citizens, she said.

Venegas said her husband is a hard worker and the sole provider of the family.

In a statement issued Saturday afternoon, Immigration and Custom Enforcement said Arrona "was brought to ICE's attention due to an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges," spokeswoman Lori Haley said.

ICE said agents with the agency's Fugitive Operations Team detained Arrona on Wednesday and said he remained in custody pending removal proceedings.

Though the team prioritizes arresting immigrants who are transnational gang members, child sex offenders and those who've had previous convictions for violent crimes, the agency's statement said it "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," the statement said.

Emilio Amaya Garcia, director of the San Bernardino Community Service Center, said his nonprofit group is providing legal help to Venegas and Arrona, will file a motion on Monday for an immigration court to set a bail hearing for Arrona and will ask that his removal proceedings be canceled.

Garcia did not respond to messages and calls for comment about the arrest warrant in Mexico.

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