Neighbors held hands in a “human chain” to shield a father and son from ICE agents, promising to defend the family in the future.
Nashville television station WTVF reported that agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) swarmed a father and his 12-year-old son on Monday as they left their Hermitage, Tenn., home. But, as one neighbor reportedly stated, “They came to the wrong community on the wrong day.”
As ICE blocked the father from leaving in his car, locals were ready to defend their neighbor of 14 years. “We made sure they had water, they had food, we put gas back in the vehicle when they were getting low just to make sure they were okay,” Felishadae Young told WTVF.
“There were two immigration officials sort of bullying a family inside of their own vehicle, telling them that they had an administrative warrant, which isn’t the same thing as a judicial warrant, and trying to harass them and fear them into coming out,” attorney Daniel Ayoadeyoon, who was in the crowd, told WTVF. “They were saying, ‘If you don’t come out, we’re going to arrest you, we’re going to arrest your 12-year-old son,’ and that’s just not legal. It’s not the right law.”
Officers from the Metro Nashville Police Department were also called in.
After a four-hour deadlock, supporters held hands to provide a physical barrier between ICE and the family, including as they ran inside their home. ICE agents left. NBC News reported that later on, neighbors formed the chain to allow the family to leave their house in their car.
Officer Don Aaron tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement that ICE called for police backup after the father ignored ICE’s directives to stop his car. “...The caller said the driver was sitting in the van and was not getting out. He requested the police department’s assistance, but did not specify what he wanted the police department to do. When the police arrived, they learned that ICE was attempting to serve a detainer only on the individual. The man was sitting in the van with a 12-year-old boy.”
“The officers were instructed to not be involved in the service of the detainer, but to stand by from a distance to keep the peace if necessary,” read the officer’s statement. “ICE ultimately left while the man was still in the van. The police left accordingly.”
Representatives of ICE did not immediately reply to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. The organization told WTVF, "No at-large ICE arrests happened today in Nashville. That said, in general, ICE conducts targeted enforcement of federal immigration law on a daily basis in accordance with our routine, ongoing operations. ICE continues to focus its enforcement efforts on criminal offenders as nearly 90 percent of persons arrested for violation of federal immigration law during the past year also had either a prior criminal conviction or a pending criminal charge. ICE does not conduct any type of random or indiscriminate enforcement that would encounter persons indiscriminately."
Nashville’s own mayor, David Briley, weighed in, tweeting that “this type of activity by our federal government stokes fear and distrust in our most vulnerable communities, which is why we do not use our local resources to enforce ICE orders.”
Every Nashville resident and family deserves to feel safe, regardless of immigration status. My statement on yesterday’s events: pic.twitter.com/1t7QYACZyM
— Mayor David Briley (@MayorBriley) July 23, 2019
Video of the reported “human chain” has been viewed many times on social media. A spokesperson for Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition told NBC News that ICE had "no judicial or criminal warrant to apprehend" the father.
"ICE doesn’t have the authority to enter your home or private property without a warrant signed by a judge,” said the organization. “The majority of the time, ICE only has an administrative warrant — not a judicial one."
If ICE returns, the community is prepared. "I know they're gonna come back,” Young told WTVF, “and when they come back, we're coming back.”
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