- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2018

President Trump will visit San Diego on Tuesday to review prototypes for his border wall as tensions run high, after a video of agents arresting an illegal immigrant in Southern California went viral last week, opening a new battlefront in the war between the state and the federal government.

The wall is the most visible symbol of Mr. Trump’s stepped-up immigration enforcement policies. But activists are increasingly protesting specific arrests and deportations, treating individual cases as chances to strike back against the president.

That has become the case with the arrest of Perla Morales-Luna, was nabbed by agents March 3 while walking with her daughters. The arrest was caught on several videos which were posted last week by a beautician and part-time school aide who said the daughters were students at her school.

The videos have raced around the internet, exceeding 10 million views in little more than 24 hours.

“When agents essentially snatch a mother from her children without any consideration of welfare and safety, knowing they’re being videotaped, I think there is a level of comfort that the enforcement agencies have in operating in this way,” said Pedro Rios, program director at the American Friends Service Committee’s San Diego office.

But the Border Patrol says Ms. Morales is an unlikely poster child for excessive enforcement, saying she wasn’t just collateral damage but rather a specific target, based on her affiliation with a cartel.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said she arranged drivers to carry illegal immigrants from the border to a stash house. They said they sniffed her out after a January smuggling attempt in Boulevard, California.

Authorities didn’t specify what operation that was, but records show there was a major bust of a fake UPS truck carrying 77 illegal immigrants that was caught after it was stopped by the state highway patrol.

The incident is highly controversial, since it implicates California’s new sanctuary city laws.

CBP says it tried to get Ms. Morales to self-surrender in the weeks since the January incident but she refused, so agents were left with no choice but to target her for arrest.

When they finally tried to get her she resisted, trying to jump into another vehicle to flee, the agency says, adding its agents did everything by the book.

“The video clearly shows the arresting agents carried out their duties appropriately, even when faced with a barrage of insults and confrontational agitators,” the agency said.

Ms. Morales is being processed for deportation, since she’s here as an illegal immigrant.

Her defenders are questioning the veracity of the government’s account.

They say if she’s really a smuggler who deserved to be targeted for this kind of operation, the government should be charging her for involvement in the cartel operation.

Short of that, they question the appearance of the arrest.

“A mom walking with children on the street shouldn’t be treated in that matter,” said William Baker, the woman’s lawyer.

Mr. Baker told The Washington Times that they’ll ask for her to be released and reunited with her three U.S.-citizen daughters while she fights the deportation case against her.

The video made the rounds of social media Thursday and Friday, garnered coverage in dozens of local and national news outlets, and sparked outrage from Hispanic advocates and anti-Trump progressive activists.

“Your tax dollars at work,” tweeted Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. “Mother ripped away from her crying daughters by Border Patrol agents on a Southern California street corner. America in the age of Trump. Meanwhile, Congress on verge of giving Trump’s deportation force billions more.”

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