A protest is planned 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.
The arrest by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, who claim the mother was part of a criminal smuggling ring, happened last Saturday, but two videos of the arrest began garnering widespread attention Thursday on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
In both videos, the woman’s three daughters can be heard crying and screaming as Border Patrol officers dressed in plain clothes drag the woman into a marked Border Patrol SUV.
In response to the video, a San Diego-area Border Patrol spokesman issued a statement saying Perla Morales-Luna was “an organizer for a transnational criminal smuggling organization operating in East County.”
“She was arrested as a result of a targeted operation on March 3, 2018, in National City for being in the country illegally,” Agent Michael J. Scappechio said. “She is currently in Border Patrol custody awaiting transfer to (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) for removal proceedings.”
When asked on Twitter for more details about the alleged transnational smuggling organization, the San Diego-area Border Patrol’s official account responded that it could not release more details “as this is part of an active investigation.”
Still, many people questioned the tactics used in the arrest and wondered why Morales-Luna was arrested for being in the country illegally and not for the far more serious smuggling crimes alleged by the Border Patrol.
As of Friday morning, an online federal data base showed no charges were filed against Morales-Luna in U.S. District Court.
National City Councilmember Alejandra Sotelo-Solis told CBS8 she didn’t witness the arrest but later spoke with people close to the family. Sotelo-Solis said Morales-Luna and her three daughters were walking to pay rent Saturday 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,” Sotelo-Solis told CBS8.
10News reported that Friday morning’s protest was planned for 10:30 outside National City’s City Hall.
—City News Service
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