Early Monday morning, in a community on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, ICE agents attempted to carry out a deportation order on an undocumented man accompanied by his 12-year-old son. Thanks in part to supportive and proactive neighbors — they formed a human chain to protect the family from deportation — ICE agents left the scene empty-handed after an hours-long, non-violent standoff. Nashville Noticias, a Spanish-language news organization that delivers breaking news relevant to the Latinx community in Nashville, first shared video of the incident on its Facebook homepage where it has garnered over half a million views since it was published on Monday morning.
The man and his son had been en route in their van to somewhere outside of their home, but returned to their driveway, where immigration officials followed them. The encounter attracted the attention of neighbors who stepped up to make sure that the man and his son were comfortable and safe while waiting out the confrontation in their van. “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 OK,” a neighbor told reporters from a local CBS station. By making a human chain, they endeavored to shield the man and his son from forcible apprehension as they left the van to enter their home.
Daniel Ayoadeyoon, a lawyer who was on the scene, interpreted the incident and its implications to reporters. “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.” The immigration agents had also suggested that the man and his son would be arrested if they did not leave the vehicle, which Ayoadeyoon stressed would not be a legal course of action.
Just to clarify, a judicial warrant permits law enforcement to apprehend subjects without having consent to enter a home or vehicle, whereas administrative warrants — which are usually what are issued for undocumented immigrants — require the subject’s consent to entry so that they are not forcibly removed from the premises. As long as the man and his son remained on private property and refused consent to entry, they could not, in fact, be apprehended by ICE.
ICE called Nashville municipal police officers to the scene for assistance. Rather than assisting the detainment of the family, the police officers were instructed by their superiors in command to be present as peacekeepers. The mayor of Nashville, David Briley, said in a statement that the NPD does not and will not assist ICE’s efforts to detain undocumented immigrants. “I am keenly aware 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.” Sheriff Daron Hall of the NPD reiterated this point, stating that his team would only intervene if a suspect were a “local criminally active person.”
One neighbor told Nashville Public Radio that the community had no indication that their undocumented neighbors were posing a safety threat to anyone, a fact that inspired them to act as allies. “Everybody got mad and was like, ‘They don’t do nothing, they don’t bother nobody, you haven’t got no complaints from them. Police have never been called over there. All they do is work and take care of their family and take care of the community.’”
After over four hours, ICE agents eventually left without detaining the family.