HERMITAGE, Tenn. (CBS) — Residents in Hermitage, Tennessee, formed a human chain around their neighbor’s van to help protect him from ICE agents who were trying to take him into custody.
The man was sitting in his van with his 12-year-old son when an Immigration and Customs Enforcement vehicle blocked him in his driveway, CBS affiliate WTVF reports. With no way out, the man and his son sat in the car for hours, resulting in a standoff with ICE agents who did not have legal authority to remove them by force.
Neighbors began to check on the man and his son as they sat in the driveway. “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,” neighbor Felishadae Young told WTVF. A crowd gathered and several people videotaped the standoff on their phones.
After four hours, neighbors decided to band together and form a human chain around the van, hoping to protect the man and son when they ran inside their house.
ICE agents with administrative warrants can detain someone, but they cannot forcibly remove someone from their home or vehicle, WTVF reports. Because of this, the neighbors’ human chain would not be considered an obstruction of justice.
Video of the neighbors’ coup was shared by Nashville Noticias, an organization that provides news and information to the Hispanic community in the Nashville area.
During the ordeal, a local lawyer was contacted and came to the scene. “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 lawyer, Daniel Ayoadeyoon, said.
“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.”
CBS News has reached out to Nashville Noticias and several residents who were at the scene for more information.
Metro Nashville police officers were also present at the scene, but the department said they were there as “peacekeepers” and were not assisting in the ICE operation.
The ICE agents eventually left, but neighbors believe they will be back. If they do return, the neighbors said they will once again do everything in their power to support their neighbors. “I know they’re gonna come back, and when they come back, we’re coming back,” Young said.
“I could see if these people were bad criminals, but they’re not, they’re just trying to provide for their kids,” neighbor Stacey Farley told WTVF. “The family don’t bother nobody, they work every day, they come home, the kids jump on their trampoline, it’s just a community.”
Later, the neighbors formed another human chain so the family could get out of their house and back into their car.
WTVF obtained this statement from ICE:
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.
Metro Nashville Police also released a statement to WTFV:
An ICE representative telephoned the Emergency Communications Center at 7:19 a.m. He relayed that ICE attempted to stop a white Ford van, the driver would not stop, but did proceed to a driveway on Forest Ridge Drive. 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. ICE ultimately left while the man was still in the van. The police left accordingly.
Nashville Mayor David Briley said in a statement that it is his job to keep people in the city safe.
“Our police officers do not actively participate in immigration enforcement efforts and only serve as peacekeepers. The officers were at the incident today to keep neighbors safe and secure a perimeter,” the statement read. “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.”
Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said he wants it known that his office will not be taking part in ICE agent activity in Nashville.
“I notified ICE that we would no longer house anyone for what would be considered an ‘ICE Purpose’ only, they must be a local criminally active person before we would house them,” Hall said, according to WTVF.