National City mother in viral arrest video released from immigration detention
A National City woman whose arrest by Border Patrol in front of her three daughters became a viral video was released from custody Tuesday night by an immigration judge while her case is processed.
Border Patrol agents, including two in plainclothes, arrested Perla Morales-Luna on a Saturday afternoon in early March as she walked with her daughters in front of their apartment complex. Two videos of the arrest went viral several days later after a teacher of one of the daughters shared them on Facebook.
After videos surfaced, Border Patrol said that agents targeted Morales-Luna “for being in the country illegally” and also said the agency suspected her of recruiting drivers for a transnational smuggling organization in East County.
Since her arrest, Morales-Luna had been held at Otay Mesa Detention Center, and a relative has been taking care of her daughters — ages 17, 15, and 12.
Before the bond hearing, her legal team submitted a 72-page packet of letters and other evidence about her character and participation in the community. It included a letter from National City Mayor Ron Morrison.
The question before the court on Tuesday was whether Morales-Luna was likely to show up to future court hearings and whether she was dangerous to the community, immigration Judge Zsa Zsa De Paolo explained to a courtroom.
The attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement didn’t argue that Morales-Luna was a flight risk, noting her U.S. citizen daughters and that she’d been here for over a decade, but said, “My concern is her participation in an active smuggling scheme.”
The ICE attorney noted that one of three people charged earlier this year in a smuggling case named Morales-Luna as being involved.
Morales-Luna’s attorney William Baker countered that the two women had worked together as cleaners about five years ago but denied that Morales-Luna had any involvement with the smuggling operation.
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