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ICE agents back down after neighbors, activists link arms to help father and son avoid feds


Immigration advocates want to remind immigrants what rights they have when ICE approaches them.
Nashville Tennessean

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Neighbors and activists gathered for hours in a Tennessee driveway Monday morning while they said two Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers attempted to talk a man and his 12-year-old son into getting out of their van.

Eventually, more than 10 bystanders linked arms around the van, creating a pathway for the pair to enter their house.

ICE public information officer in Nashville Bryan Cox said the officers then drove away to deescalate the situation.

Neighbors Stacey Farley, Cyara Parker and Nicole Tyler said they have seen an unmarked, white F-150 truck roaming the neighborhood for the past two weeks, but didn’t think much of it until this morning, when the truck began to flash red and blue lights.

The ICE officials had been sitting in the truck since midnight Sunday, neighbors said. After ICE attempted to pull over the van, it pulled into a driveway on Forest Ridge Drive, the Metro Nashville Police Department said in a statement. 

Farley said the ICE officers were encouraging the two individuals to exit their van, offering cash rewards and saying things like “you’ll have to exit eventually.”

But the father and son stayed in the van for more than four hours Monday morning, witnesses said. 

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A crowded street corner

When ICE called MNPD at 7:19 a.m., they requested assistance but did not specify what they needed, MNPD spokesman Don Aaron said. Police on the scene were instructed not to get involved unless necessary.

When Farley went outside at 8:26 a.m. to smoke a cigarette, she started calling other neighbors to see what was going on. Once they learned, they worked to bring water, cold rags and sandwiches to the man and his son, and filled their gas tank so they could keep the AC running in the car.

The corner of two streets where the van sat soon became filled with activists, council members and media. Tristan Call, a volunteer with advocacy group Movements Including X, said several people, including herself, live-streamed the event.

In Call’s live-stream video, MNPD Sgt. Noah Smith said he was there in case things got out of hand.

“We’re not here to enforce any federal script. … We’re just here if anything major happens,” he said.

Smith said they had no warrants on the individual in the van in Davidson County.

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ICE: Agents ‘looking for particular individuals’

Cox said there’s a common misconception about ICE arrests. 

“When our officers leave for the day, they’re going to particular places looking for particular individuals,” he said. 

Cox also noted that in the fiscal year 2018, 90% of people arrested by ICE had either a prior criminal conviction or a pending criminal charge, unrelated to immigration status. 

“ICE believes that everyone is safer when federal, state and local agencies collaborate,” Cox said. 

Councilman Bob Mendes received a text message from an immigration advocate about the event and decided to show up. 

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“I haven’t heard much about ICE activity in Nashville over the years, and there’s certainly been a lot of rhetoric out of Washington, D.C., about more ICE enforcement,” he said. “It appeared from Facebook live-streaming that there was a crowd gathering. I thought it would be worth (going).” 

Mendes also mentioned being interested since MNPD was there.

“When ICE attempts a federal civil immigration enforcement and Metro gets involved, it’s worth paying attention to,” he said. “There’s a reason why the city and MNPD have a policy of not participating in civil immigration enforcement. It tends to give people a reason to distrust Metro.”

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