When Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested Perla Morales-Luna in front of her children in early March for allegedly being in the U.S. without the proper paperwork, it would have been uneventful under most circumstances.
But this wasn’t most circumstances. The incident was captured on video in the San Diego suburb of National City, Crooks and Liars reported. It wasn’t long before that went viral, enraging people within the community.
The video shows agents in uniforms and plainclothes grabbing Morales-Luna in front of her three daughters, then pushing and shoving her towards their truck. As her daughters yelled and cried “MOM!” Morales-Luna tried to resist but her efforts were futile.
The agents shoved her into the truck and sped away, lights flashing.
Outraged locals took to the social media, disgusted that the agents took Morales-Luna from her daughters without even trying to find out if there was someone to look after them.
So what was CBP’s response? The tweet below, which said:
Perla Morales-Luna was identified as an organizer for a transnational criminal smuggling organization operating in East County, SanDiego. She was arrested as a result of a targeted operation on March 3,2018, in National City for being in the country illegally.
— CBP San Diego (@CBPSanDiego) March 9, 2018
CBP never said what (if anything) the woman was smuggling, and gave no information regarding the allegations. The case was criticized by advocates and attorneys because although the agency accused her of being associated with a criminal organization, it never charged her with a crime, BuzzFeed News reports.
But CBP tried to justify its actions by saying Morales-Luna was a danger to society; this in spite of the fact that it never charged her with smuggling.
Fortunately, Judge Zsa Zsa Depaolo noted this and ordered the agency to release Morales-Pena on her own recognizance, having found that the mother of three was no danger. The judge added it isn’t up to her to consider the smuggling allegations and said three other people who were accused of having ties to smuggling had been exonerated. Morales-Luna has now been ordered to appear at a hearing to determine her immigration status at a later date.
She was released Tuesday night and rejoined her daughters outside the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego. The girls were overjoyed to see their mom, as you can see in the video below.
Unfortunately, cases like Morales-Luna’s are becoming more common, attorneys say. Undocumented immigrants are being incarcerated for crimes like smuggling, without ever being charged. This makes it easier for authorities to push for deportation without even providing evidence for the allegations.
Andres Moreno II, an attorney for Morales-Luna, said his client is a single mother trying to raise her daughters, all of whom are U.S. citizens and are 17,15, and 12 years old. She has no criminal record and Moreno denied that she was working for a criminal organization.
Hopefully, this happy ending won’t be short-lived, because there’s still a possibility that she may be deported, and her daughters may be without a mother all over again.
The sad and shocking video shows what happened when Morales Pena was taken into custody.
Featured image by Live Camera via YouTube video.