Children Search for National City Parents Detained by US Government

A husband and wife were taken into custody by federal officials in front of their children this week. Days later, the children tell NBC 7 they aren't sure where their parents are being held but they are hopeful they will be allowed to return home.

"My life was normal the day before," Francisco Duarte said. "I thought somehow I could help and I wasn’t able to help and that just broke me."

Duarte, 19, of National City said his father walked out of the family’s home on Palm Avenue Tuesday morning to pick up a newspaper at the convenience store next door.

His father, also named Francisco Duarte, 51, was handcuffed and put into an unmarked SUV. Duarte’s mother, Rosenda Perez, 48,  walked out of the home to see what was going on and was also detained, the teenager said.

Perez requested that their 19-year-old son assume care of their 17-year-old son and two twelve-year-old daughters after her arrest, according to U.S. Border Patrol. Agents allowed Duarte to visit his son to discuss time arrangements for the care of his siblings.

At the time, Francisco said he could not get much information from the officials who were detaining his parents. He asked them if they had an arrest warrant for his father but he was told the officials didn't need an arrest warrant.

The family called the National City Police Department who did some investigating. The police told the children their parents were in the custody of the government.

As of Friday, the elder Duarte and Perez have not been deported but the couple’s four children are still not sure where their parents are being held.

Francisco said his parents have not been in trouble with the law.

According to U.S. Border Patrol, Duarte and Perez were suspected to have been working as stash house operators for a transnational human smuggling operation. They were both under investigation for their alleged involvement.

Duarte and Perez have been charged with immigration violations, and are being processed for removal proceedings, confirmed U.S. Border Patrol. The parents are currently in Border Patrol custody and will later be transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement pending their immigration hearings.

A rally in support of the family was scheduled for Friday evening outside of the Otay Detention Facility. Duarte said his mother was at this detention center earlier in the week.

Francisco has three siblings – one 17-year-old and a set of 12-year-old twins.

He said his mother and his sisters have never spent time apart.

"I’ve been trying to cope with this as much as I can," he said. "Trying to get my sisters ready for school."

"At the end of the day, I’ve got to be there for my family."


There had been a rumor earlier in the week that the parents were detained outside of their daughters' school, which an attorney hired by the Duarte family said is false.

In response to the rumor, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released the following statement:

"Reports of ICE checkpoints, indiscriminate “raids” & sweeps are false, dangerous & irresponsible. These reports create mass panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger. Any groups falsely reporting such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support."

"Based on the information you provided…my operational colleagues were not able to confirm that these individuals in ICE custody," Virginia Kice, Western Regional Communications Director/Spokesperson for ICE, told NBC 7.

The National City Teachers Association will be organizing an upcoming meeting to address concerns parents have about immigration arrests.

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