A young woman grasped onto Perla Morales-Luna’s arm as a Border Patrol agent and two men in plain clothes pulled her away.
“Get in the car!” one of the men yelled.
Morales-Luna’s three daughters watched from the sidewalk as the agents pushed her into the back of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection van. The daughters, who appeared to be teenagers, shrieked and sobbed as the van drove away.
“Mom!” one of the daughters screamed.
“Where is she going?” one of the daughters asked after the vehicle disappeared.
Perla Morales-Luna was arrested Saturday in National City, Calif., near San Diego, on a busy street corner about a block away from a local high school. Morales-Luna was walking with her three daughters to pay rent when two plainclothes agents approached her, asked for her name, and proceeded to tug her away, National City council member Alejandra Sotelo-Solis told NBC 7.
Immigration authorities arrested Morales-Luna, who is in the country illegally, as part of a “targeted operation,” according to a CBP statement. Officials identified her as an alleged “organizer for a transnational criminal smuggling organization operating in East County, San Diego,” the CBP statement read.
A video capturing the emotional scene circulated widely on Facebook Thursday and provoked anger from immigrant rights activists and community leaders. The aggressive way in which the agents detained the woman, in front of her children, underscores immigration authorities’ “violent” methods of taking people into custody, advocates say.
“The mother is essentially stripped from the arms of her children,” Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego, told The Washington Post. “If there weren’t uniformed agents, it would resemble a kidnapping.”
“To have something like this go down, in the broad daylight, it really is concerning,” Sotelo-Solis told NBC 7.
Who knows if she is guilty of this or not. But this is just barbaric. It also makes white people happy about themselves.