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ICE detains California man taking pregnant wife to hospital for delivery of their baby

Posted at 3:15 PM, Aug 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-19 00:12:14-04

A man driving his pregnant wife to a hospital for delivery of their baby was detained and taken into custody by immigration agents, according to the couple's lawyer and a news report.

Joel Arrona-Lara, 36, whose lawyer said had no criminal record, was taken into custody when he and his wife stopped at a gas station Wednesday in San Bernardino, California, his wife, Maria del Carmen Venegas, told Univision in Spanish. They had been on the way to the hospital for a scheduled C-section.

“[I asked] why are you taking my husband, and they said, somebody had reported us. And I said, 'No, how is that possible?' I said we are hard workers,” Carmen Venegas told Univision in an interview after the birth of her child.

“It is very hard because he was always there," the mother told Univision. "And he would say everything will be OK and not to worry, that we will meet the baby. And for me to be alone it feels brutal."

In addition to the newborn, the couple has four children between the ages of 2 and 13 years old.

An attorney representing Carmen Venegas told ABC News that Arrona-Lara was detained for not having identification on him. The lawyer, Emilio Amaya, said the father has no criminal record and no arrest warrant.

According to Amaya, witnesses at the gas station said ICE agents were there when Arrona-Lara's car pulled up and that the agents seemingly approached the family randomly.

ICE said in a statement that Arrona-Lara is an undocumented immigrant in custody pending removal proceedings.

“Mr. Arrona-Lara, a citizen of Mexico illegally residing in the United States, was taken into custody Wednesday by ICE Fugitive Operations Team officers in San Bernardino, Calif.," the agency said. "Mr. Arrona-Lara is currently in ICE custody pending removal proceedings with the Executive Office for Immigration Review."

The statement went on to say that ICE focuses on people who pose a threat to security or public safety, but "will no longer exempt" others from potential enforcement.

"ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security," the statement said. "ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. However, ICE 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.”

ABC News' Matthew Fuhrman contributed to this report.