Phoenix Immigration Office Set on Fire

Photo courtesy: Maricopa County Sheriffs Office

On March 30, police received quite a shocking phone call stating that the Immigration Office in Downtown Phoenix was on fire.  Government buildings don’t catch a-blaze very often, and when they do it’s always a threat wondering if further attacks will ensue.  This office is a Federal Immigration Office, located in Downtown Phoenix on Central and McDowell.  Many other businesses surround the office, so it’s a good thing the fire didn’t spread too far!

Photo courtesy: Maricopa County Sheriffs Office

Once police arrived to the office, they found a 49-year-old man standing nearby, simply reading a bible.  This seemed a bit odd, so police addressed the man.  The man turned out to be Arnaldo Morena Vega.  He freely admitted to the police that he did in fact set the fires.  He came down to the Immigration Office and climbed over the fence in order to set two fires.  He then spread some trash and clothing around the building, and on the fence.  Next, he set it all on fire.  The only real evidence police found was a lighter still in Morena Vegas pocket.  However, since he admitted to the crime his arrest was not difficult.

Vega claims that his motive for the arson is simply that he wishes to be deported back to his home, Cuba.  He requested that he just be deported at the time of the arson.  He states that he set fire to this building as a “sign of liberty”, and an attempt to get sent back to Cuba.  It seems there might be an easier, and legal way to return back to his home country, so it is unclear what state of mind Morena Vega is in.  His criminal record does show past arson violations, as well as violations for trespassing and criminal damage.  In fact, he has several of these charges on his record.

Vega will acquire yet another set of violations for arson, criminal damage of up to $2000, as well as trespassing after this incident.  No injuries from this act of crime were reported.  Arson is a felony in the state of Arizona, and the minimum prison term is 18 months.  With prior arson violations, however, the sentence can be increased.  Arson of an occupied structure holds even a heavier penalty, with a minimum prison sentence of 4 years.  This is considered a class 2 felony.  It is still unclear if Vega will in fact be deported.

For the ABC15 news report of this story, please visit


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