When US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers tried to take a Tennessee man into custody early Monday morning, the man's neighbors stepped up to stop them, CNN affiliates WTVF and WZTV reported.
An ICE vehicle had followed the man's van, trying to pull it over, and then blocked it in when the van driver pulled up to a house in Hermitage, near Nashville, the affiliates said. The driver alerted immigrants rights advocates and neighbors, and they rallied, bringing the man and his son - who was in the van with him - water, gas and food so they could stay in the van and avoid possible detention, the affiliates reported.
The standoff lasted for hours. Nashville police were called, but stood by 'to keep the peace if necessary,' the police department said in a statement.
At some point, the neighbors formed a human chain around the man and his son, who weren't identified to the media, allowing them to get into a house, and later to get from the house to a car and drive away.
'I was real scared about what was going on,' said neighbor Felishadae Young in an interview posted on Facebook by CNN affiliate WZTV. 'It put a lot of fear in me, because it could be me, it could be my family. It could be anybody. It could be your neighbors, just like it was my neighbor today.' Young said she had known the family for 14 years.
'ICE officers chose to depart the scene today without making an arrest to de-escalate the situation,' ICE spokesman Bryan Cox told CNN in an email. Cox said he wouldn't say 'who the agency's target or targets may have been so as to not compromise a potential future operation that would seek to arrest the individual at a different time and place.'
The ICE agents had an administrative warrant, WTVF reported. Nashville police, who had been called in by ICE, said in its statement that ICE was 'attempting to serve a detainer' on the man.
Advocates argue that ICE warrants aren't the same as the warrants other law enforcement agencies get judges to approve in court, because they aren't reviewed by an independent body and don't give agents authority to conduct searches inside homes or vehicles without consent.
Daniel Ayoade Yoon, a lawyer who said he witnessed Monday's standoff, said the ICE agents were 'sort of bullying' the man, WTVF reported. '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.'
'We made sure they had water, they had food, we put gas back in the vehicle when they were getting low just to make sure they were OK,' Young told WTVF.
This isn't the first time advocates have tried to block ICE from detaining and potentially deporting someone. Results of such efforts have been mixed.
A video that went viral earlier this year showed a man in upstate New York arguing with an ICE officers who attempted to stop the vehicle he was driving and detain the passengers inside. The man refused to open his car door and repeatedly told the officers the warrant they had wasn't signed by a judge. The officers eventually departed the scene, the agency said, 'to avoid further disruption.'
Last year, advocates in North Carolina surrounded an ICE van in North Carolina in an attempt to block the deportation of an undocumented immigrant who'd been living in sanctuary in a local church. Police eventually arrested 27 people that day, and the undocumented immigrant was deported days later. Some faced obstruction charges.
On Monday, advocates and neighbors alike told CNN affiliates they wouldn't back down.
'I know they're gonna come back, and when they come back, we're coming back,' Young said.
- ICE officers came for a Tennessee man. His neighbors stepped in to stop them
- Snow, ice hit the Tennessee Valley
- Decatur police: Officer steps in to stop drug overdose
- Tennessee man gets life in prison for officer's killing
- Man suspected in Kentucky officer's death killed in Tennessee
- Neighbors weigh in on officer indictment
- Judge won't stop Tennessee's third execution since August
- Police: Tennessee man reported killing his wife
- Limestone County man drowns in Tennessee River
- Florence man charged in Tennessee police pursuit