NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – People in a Hermitage neighborhood made national headlines in July when they formed a human chain to protect a man and his son from detainment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
News 2 has uncovered new information from ICE about why the man surrounded by the human chain was being sought in the first place.
In a video obtained by News 2, you hear the moments that man is approached by ICE agents on the morning of July 22 and he starts recording.
He and his 12-year-old son are inside a van parked in a driveway on Forest Ridge Drive. The man tells the agent his lawyer is on the way.
Then the ICE agent responds, “We’ll just call the cops and they’ll arrest you. Then when they’re done with you in the jail, then we’ll come and get you. You understand? Then we’ll probably come back and talk to your wife.”
Despite those claims by the ICE agent, Metro Police said in statement: “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.”
Shortly after law enforcement arrived, a Nashville-area immigration advocate showed up on the scene. She recorded as she approached the situation.
“We have a father and a son who are in the van right now. This is immigration; they’ve identified themselves as ICE. They are trying to get the person out of the van,” she said on her video.
She then approached the van and got into a conversation with Metro police officers.
She told them, “If they have a judicial warrant, they can do what they’re doing. If they just have any kind of warrant signed by any kind of person, they cannot.”
ICE agents had an administrative warrant, otherwise known as a detainer, which does not allow them to forcibly remove people from their home or vehicle.
Acting ICE press secretary Bryan Cox said the detainer was ordered because the man in question is a convicted criminal with an outstanding removal order.
Cox wrote in an email to News 2 on Sept. 26th: “He has multiple arrests and convictions in Davidson County to include a prior DUI conviction. His last criminal arrest by local authorities in Davidson County occurred as recently as two months prior to the incident. This person also received due process before the federal immigration courts, and after having his day in court, was ordered to depart the U.S. by a federal immigration judge. He subsequently fled and has been an ICE fugitive for nearly ten years.”
The situation in Hermitage intensified as neighbors showed up to help and brought the man and his son food, water and gas for the van. Hours later, they formed a human chain to make sure the two got out safely.
“We were going to hold it down. As long as the police was going to be out here, we were going to be out here just as long,” a neighbor told News 2.
According to ICE, the agents left the scene before the human chain was formed to quote “deescalate the situation.”
ICE said it does not identify people being sought by the agency as to not compromise a future arrest.
The agency said in a statement that 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.”
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. Click here to read more.