Video shows Border Patrol seize woman accused of smuggling as her daughters cry

A Border Patrol agent uses a headset and computer to conduct a long distance interview by video from a facility in San Diego.
A Border Patrol agent uses a headset and computer to conduct a long distance interview by video from a facility in San Diego. AP file

An immigration arrest in National City, Calif., has turned one family's lives upside-down and drawn attention nationwide.

Perla Morales-Luna was detained on March 3 in a dramatic incident that was captured in a video posted to Facebook by teacher Judith Castro-Rangel that has since gone viral, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Border Patrol has accused her of being involved in smuggling and being in the country illegally.

Border Patrol agents – one in uniform and others in plainclothes – pull Morales-Luna away from her three daughters and into a waiting vehicle as her daughters shriek and cry.

“Get in the car!” one of the apparent agents yells as one of the daughters calls for her mom.

Another daughter asks, "Where is she going?" as the agents drive away with Morales-Luna.

The arrest took place in the Southern California city near San Diego about one block from a high school, according to The Washington Post.

National City Councilwoman Alejandra Sotelo-Solis told CBS8 that she has learned that Morales-Luna and her daughters walking when a man in plainclothes came up and asked for Morales-Luna's name. Agents then then took her into custody.

“The mother is essentially stripped from the arms of her children,” Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee, told The Post. “If there weren’t uniformed agents, it would resemble a kidnapping.”

Amid a backlash from activists, the California Border Patrol in San Diego released a statement on Twitter:

"Perla Morales-Luna was identified as an organizer for a transnational criminal smuggling organization operating in East County, San Diego." They did not say what kind of smuggling she is accused of conducting.

Border Patrol agent Michael J. Scappechio told NBC7 that Morales-Luna has a prior arrest but he would not confirm the charge.

Morales-Luna's attorney, Andres Moreno II, told The Associated Press on Friday that the video was shocking.

Moreno said his client denies any involvement in smuggling. The AP reports that she hasn't been charged with smuggling and the Border Patrol hasn't offered evidence.

Morales-Luna was to be transferred to ICE and then deported, Scappechio said. Her daughters are currently with their aunt, according to NBC7.

A protest was held outside of City Hall on Friday in reaction to the arrest, CBS8 reported.

The arrest came days before the Trump administration sued California over its immigration policies, and three laws in particular: Senate Bill 54, deemed the "sanctuary state" measure; Assembly Bill 450, the "immigrant Protection Act; and Assembly Bill 103, which is budget-related and targets criminal justice.

“California, we have a problem. A series of actions and events has occurred that directly and adversely impact the work of our federal officers,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday. “Stop protecting lawbreakers and giving all officers more dangerous work to do so that a few politicians can score political points on the backs of officer safety.”

"This is basically going to war against the state of California, the engine of the American economy," Brown responded Wednesday. "It's not wise, it's not right and it will not stand."

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department has a contract with U.S. Customs and Immigration to house immigration detainees in its Rio Consumnes Correctional Facility near Elk Grove. Tuesday evening, activists called for terminating the ICE contrac