Neighbors Form Human Chain to Block ICE from Detaining Father and Son: They Were 'Bullying' Them
"They came to the wrong community on the wrong day," one neighbor said
A group of Tennessee residents sprang into action on Monday to protect a man and his 12-year-old son when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers attempted to take the pair into custody.
Footage showed neighbors in Hermitage filling the area of Brooke Valley Drive and Forest Ridge Drive for hours Monday morning to support the man after an ICE vehicle blocked him and his son in their van, WTVF reported. Neighbors provided gas, water and wet rags as the pair remained in their vehicle. (ICE warrants prohibit agents from forcibly removing people from their home or vehicle, according to WTVF.)
“There were two immigration officials sort of bullying a family inside of their own vehicle, telling them that they had an administrative warrant … and trying to harass them and fear them into coming out,” Daniel Ayoade Yoon, a local lawyer who helped in the effort, told WTVF. “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.”
ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.
Eventually, more than 10 people linked arms around the van and created a pathway for the man and his son to get into their home, according to the Tennessean. The ICE officers, dressed in plain clothes, drove away in their unmarked, white F-150 truck. As the bystanders stood guard, the boy was shown in the footage running into the family’s home, appearing afraid.
The residents cheered as the man and son made it inside safely.
“They came to the wrong community on the wrong day,” one neighbor could be heard saying during the standoff, according to the Nashville Scene.
One neighbor, Angela Glass, told the Scene that the family had been living there for 14 years.
“They don’t bother anybody,” said Glass. “Our kids play with their kids. It’s just one big community. And we don’t want to see anything happen to them. They’re good people. They’ve been here 14 years, leave them alone. To me, they’re considered Americans.”
The situation unfolded after an ICE representative called the police department, saying that the man drove home when ICE agents tried to pull him over, a Metro Nashville Police Department spokesperson tells PEOPLE in a statement. Responding police learned that ICE agents were attempting to serve a detainer, a civil warrant.
“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,” police say.
Although the ICE officers hold that the incident stemmed from a traffic stop, neighbors reported seeing the agents sitting in a mysterious unmarked truck since Sunday, the Tennessean reported.
Tristan Call, who is part of a human rights group and took part in the residents’ efforts, applauded the neighbors.
“Really what put that into motion this morning was that some neighbors saw it happening and were willing to take a stand about it,” Call said. “I want to honor the work that those neighbors did. Young women coming out here by themselves to directly ask, ‘What are y’all doing here? This is our neighbor, we back each other up’ … That’s why this dad is still with his son.”
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that more than 2,000 migrants in the U.S. illegally “were targeted in widely publicized raids that unfolded across the country last week. The government said just 35 people were detained, according to the Times.
The raids come as human rights groups decry the unsanitary conditions at processing facilities for migrants at the border. The crisis has sparked outrage as at least two dozen migrants have died in ICE custody during President Donald Trump administration, according to NBC News.