Facebook videos showing Border Patrol agents arresting a woman in San Diego went viral Thursday, with immigrant-rights activists saying they show a woman being torn from her children — but the agency said she was actually an “organizer” for a major smuggling operation.
Activists seized on the videos as evidence of overbearing enforcement.
But the Border Patrol said the woman was a justified target, given her involvement with a smuggling operation and her unauthorized status here in the U.S.
Judith Castro-Rangel, whose Facebook page says she’s an aide at a charter school in San Diego, posted the videos and said the woman was the mother of one of her students.
“The brutalized, injustice that is happening in this country is sad,” she wrote. “This battle continues and we should not give up.”
The videos, both just less than two minutes long, show a woman being apprehended by Border Patrol agents, with several girls screaming and crying in the background. At one point a girl appears to be shouting “Mom.”
One video had garnered more than 3 million views Thursday evening, while the other was quickly approaching 1 million.
At the end of one video, a man insults the Border Patrol agents by referring to them with a homophobic slur.
Immigration activists identified the woman as Perla Morales, and said the girls in the video were her daughters. They said Border Patrol agents had dressed in civilian clothes “to stalk” the woman.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, though, said the woman was involved in smuggling.
“Perla Morales-Luna was identified as an organizer for a transnational criminal smuggling organization operating in East County, San Diego,” the agency said. “She was arrested as a result of a targeted operation on March 3, 2018, in National City for being in the country illegally. She is currently in Border Patrol custody awaiting transfer to ICE for removal proceedings.”