ICE in Tennessee: Focus is on ‘those who pose threat,’ not indiscriminate raids

Special Reports

(AP file photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The shots rang out on September 5th after two agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement located 39-year-old Jose Fernando Andrade-Sanchez in an Antioch parking lot.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Andrade-Sanchez refused to exit his truck and drove forward instead. One of the ICE agents fired two shots, with one round striking the Mexican national. Andrade-Sanchez sought medical attention that afternoon. He was arrested two weeks later outside an attorney’s office, after being indicted for unlawful re-entry into the United States.

Investigators on the scene after an ICE-involved shooting in Antioch on September 5th (WKRN photo)

“I opened the door, take a couple steps out, the first thing I notice is an ICE officer holding a gun over our client who is face down on the ground with another ICE officer on his back, with his knees in his back,” attorney Aaron Dendy told News 2 after the arrest.

The incident drew national attention, weeks after another high-profile ICE case in Hermitage. In late July, community members formed a human chain around a vehicle to prevent agents from taking a man into custody. Neighbors said the man and his 12-year-old son were in a van in their driveway when an ICE vehicle blocked them. The two refused to get out of the van as neighbors stepped in to help, bringing them gas for the vehicle, food and water.

Witnesses described the incident to News 2. “We formed a human chain, and they went into the house, and they’re safe now,” said neighbor Felishadae Young. “We were going to hold it down as long as the police were here. We were going to be out here just as long.” ICE agents ultimately left the scene.

Neighbors gather in the driveway of a Hermitage home in July to separate ICE agents from a man and 12-year old boy inside the van (Viewer photo)

Not much is known about the man being sought in the Hermitage case, but officials released several details about Andrade-Sanchez following the Antioch incident. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, he had been removed from the U.S. on four previous occasions.

The most recent incident involving Andrade-Sanchez came in October of 2013. A U.S. Attorney’s office release said that he was in the country illegally and living in Nashville under an assumed name when he was charged with domestic assault and aggravated child abuse, after striking a three-year old child in the face and assaulting his then-girlfriend and the child’s mother. Andrade-Sanchez later pleaded guilty to domestic assault and the child abuse charge was retired.

Both incidents created debate over immigration enforcement in Nashville. David Briley, then Nashville’s mayor, took to Twitter on July 12th, saying “Every family in Nashville, regardless of immigration status, deserves to know their rights and feel safe in their home and neighborhood. This is a city where all are welcome — and we will continue to support our residents.”

ICE insists it is not randomly targeting individuals. Bryan Cox, the acting press secretary in the agency’s New Orleans office, which has regional oversight of Tennessee, said in an email to News 2 “For general context: ICE continues to focus its limited resources first and foremost on those who pose the greatest threat to public safety. ICE only conducts targeted enforcement and does not conduct any type of indiscriminate raids or sweeps that target aliens indiscriminately.”

Cox went on to say that ICE has multiple offices across Tennessee, including a “longstanding office” in Nashville. “We make arrests in the local area on an ongoing basis so our presence is not new or unique, and any general premise that ICE arrests in the Nashville area would be a unique occurrence would not be correct,” he said in the email. “For security, we don’t disclose how many employees we have at any particular location, but for the totality of ICE as a federal law enforcement agency there are approximately 20,000 employees.”

Migrant workers are a routine part of farming in Tennessee. There are checks and balances in place for agricultural employers to receive assistance in obtaining farm workers through the H2A program.

According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development website, employers must show that there are no local workers available for the jobs, then applications are reviewed “to determine whether prevailing hourly wages, working conditions, and housing and transportation arrangements have an adverse effect on domestic workers.”

These employers are primarily in rural areas, seeking to find people who will do the types of jobs that go unfilled. “In these rural areas in these counties, the Tennessee workforce pool for people who want to do agricultural work, because of the intensity that the work entails, they don’t want to do it. Therefore, the farmers petition to have the H2A workers come in,” he said. “If we didn’t have the H2A visa system, in my opinion, Tennessee would lose out on a lot of labor and a lot of money that otherwise we have.”

Not all employers have played by the rules. A man who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an ICE raid at a Bean Station, Tennessee slaughterhouse was sentenced to 18 months in prison in July. John Brantley pleaded guilty to tax evasion, wire fraud and employing undocumented immigrants at Southeastern Provision in Grainger County.

Site of ICE raid in Bean Station, Tennessee (WATE photo)

The facility was the target of an April 2018 raid where 97 people were found to be subject to removal from the country.

The raid became the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against individual ICE agents, alleging they “violated the workers’ constitutional rights because they arrested the immigrants solely on the basis of their race and without probable cause,” according to the SPLC web site.

Cox responded to a WATE-TV question about the lawsuit, saying “The Southeastern Provision case was always a federal criminal investigation that also resulted in administrative immigration arrests. To describe the operation as an immigration enforcement action is inaccurate; it was a federal criminal investigation that also resulted in immigration arrests.”

News 2 is digging deeper into ICE activity in Tennessee, the dynamics  involved and the debate that has followed. See our special reports all day Thursday in every newscast.

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