Early this morning, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents tried to apprehend an individual in Hermitage, Tennessee. The man was in his car with a 12 year old family member.
Neighbors noticed the operation when unmarked vehicles blocked his car in his home driveway. Two Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) vehicles arrived at the scene and parked in front of the residence, initially with blue lights flashing. ICE and the MNPD remained at the home for several hours.
As has been widely reported, an incredible scene transpired.
Despite the presence of MNPD officers, there was no judicial or criminal warrant to apprehend this individual. Even in the face of intimidation and threats from the ICE agents, the man invoked his rights and he and the child stayed in their vehicle. Neighbors who had known this family for many years brought food and water to the man and boy in their vehicle. They told local media outlets that ICE “picked the wrong community on the wrong day.”
While many questions remain about the operation, here are three things we can take away from this morning:
1. Immigrant community members should know their rights if they are approached by ICE.
ICE doesn’t have the authority to enter your home or private property without a warrant signed by a judge. Make sure that you and your family know your rights and are prepared to exercise them. The majority of the time, ICE only has an administrative warrant - not a judicial one. Click on the image below to print your own copy and keep in your car and your home.
2. Nashvillians don’t want to see their neighbors’ families ripped apart.
What happened this morning shows how deeply rooted immigrants are in our community. Neighbors reported that they were worried and outraged because some had known the family for more than a decade. One neighbor shared that their children often played together. When multiple law enforcement vehicles surround a home and conduct this kind of operation it can be deeply traumatizing, not only for the young boy in the vehicle, but for the entire community.
3. MNPD should change their policies and refuse to participate in ICE operations - in any capacity.
While MNPD did not assist ICE in apprehending or interrogating the individual, their very presence was deeply troubling and can come at a high cost to public safety.
In a statement, MNPD indicates they were called by ICE to assist in an operation, but that ICE did not specify what role they wanted local law enforcement to perform. Why was the default response to agree to participate in an ICE operation, absent any details?
The MNPD vehicles added to a climate of intimidation as the ICE officers attempted to apprehend the individuals. There have been reports that ICE agents even used their presence as a direct threat to the man, saying that if he didn’t comply with their requests to leave his vehicle, MNPD officers would arrest him.
Cities and police departments across the country understand the damage that entanglement - real or perceived - can do to community trust. When immigrant community members and their families associate local police with federal immigration enforcement, they are less likely to report being a victim or a witness to a crime - making the whole community less safe. For the thousands and thousands of Nashvillians from immigrant families who watched the scene unfold via several live-streams, the image of MNPD vehicles alongside ICE agents will be embedded into their minds.
MNPD must re-establish trust by enacting and publicizing policies that draw a bright line between their work to protect and serve Nashvillians and the work of federal immigation officials and refuse to help ICE carry out civil immigration enforcement in Davidson County, in any capacity.
Want to learn more about how the city of Nashville can protect immigrant residents? Join our issue forum this Thursday evening.