An illegal alien accused of human smuggling, whose on-video arrest earlier this month went viral, was released on Tuesday, pending a federal immigration hearing.
Video of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents arresting 36-year-old Perla Morales-Luna in east county San Diego went viral online. It featured the sound of her daughters screaming in the background.
The CBP arrest was not the first arrest for Morales-Luna, CBP agent Michael Scappechio told NBC San Diego. Scappechio did not, however, confirm the charge for which Morales was previously arrested.
“Perla Morales-Luna was identified as an organizer for a transnational criminal smuggling organization operating in East County, SanDiego,” read a statement from CBP San Diego. “She was arrested as a result of a targeted operation on March 3, 2018, in National City for being in the country illegally.”
CBP detailed that Morales previously eluded arrest and “despite direct phone conversations between her and U.S. Border Patrol agents, she refused to self-surrender to authorities.” The agency emphasized its commitment to “dismantling transnational criminal organizations who profit from cross-border smuggling of humans, dangerous narcotics, weapons and other illicit contraband.”
Morales was processed for removal. A federal immigration judge will decide the outcome of her case in a hearing.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorney handling Morales’s case informed Judge Zsa Zsa De Paolo in a Tuesday bail hearing that Morales has voluntarily returned to her native Mexico three times, once in 1997 and twice in 2004, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Morales’s lawyer, William Baker, argued that “It’s sort of silly to argue she’s a danger.”
Teacher Judith Castro, the individual who posted the arrest video that went viral, sat with Morales’s daughters during the hearing that led to her release, according to the report. One of the daughters had recorded the video of her mother’s arrest.
Morales’s case is being transferred to the downtown San Diego immigration court for a final decision, according to the report.
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