A group of neighbors in the Nashville neighborhood of Hermitage formed a human chain on Monday to protect a member of their community and his 12-year-old son as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents sought to carry out an arrest.
The incident, which was captured in a Facebook live video, showed the neighbors surrounding the white van in which the man and his son had locked themselves. ICE agents, driving a white pickup truck, had blocked in the car in order to take him into custody.
Stacey Farley, a neighbor who participated in the human chain, told BuzzFeed News the early morning standoff lasted about four hours. Eventually, ICE left, and the neighbors were able to shuttle the two safely back inside their home.
“We just wrapped our arms around and formed a chain and dared someone to break through it," said Farley, who lives three doors down from the family.
Meanwhile, the neighbors encouraged them to stay strong and stay put, bringing them food and water. To withstand the intense summer heat, they also gave them wet rags and refilled their gas tank so they could keep the air conditioner on.
“They were here with an administrative order that they wrote themselves," Daniel Yoon, an attorney who was at the scene, told Nashville Scene. "There’s no judicial review, no magistrate review, no probable cause. It doesn’t give them the authority to break down a door like you would with a normal warrant. They didn’t try to do that. But they still lied to the individuals inside and to people on the scene about, ‘No, this does give us that authority.’”
A spokesperson for ICE told BuzzFeed News a removal order had been issued for the man from an immigration court and he had been previously convicted of a crime. The agency declined to identify the man or say what crime he had committed.
Agents left without making an arrest after encountering the human chain.
"Out of an abundance of caution for the safety of all persons involved, ICE personnel subsequently made the decision to depart without making an arrest to deescalate the situation," the agency said in a statement.
Metro Nashville Police, who were also on the scene, told BuzzFeed News they arrived after an ICE agent called but "did not specify what he wanted the police department to do."
"When the police arrived, they learned that ICE was attempting to serve a detainer only on the individual," police said in the 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. ICE ultimately left while the man was still in the van. The police left accordingly."
Nashville Mayor David Briley put out a statement saying the city's police officers "do not actively participate in immigration enforcement efforts and only serve as peacekeepers."
"I am keenly aware that this type of activity by our federal government stokes fear and distrust in our most vulnerable communities, which is why we do not use our local resources to enforce ICE orders," Briley said.
Farley said she "can't ask for better neighbors," but has heard the family is still very shaken after the incident.
“There’s kids involved," Farley said. "We can’t correct the parents’ choices, but the kids don't deserve that. These kids were born in the US. It’s just not fair.”
Angela Glass, who lives across the street, told Nashville Scene the family has lived in the community for 14 years.
"They don’t bother anybody. Our kids play with their kids. It’s just one big community. And we don’t want to see anything happen to them," Glass said. "They’re good people. They’ve been here 14 years, leave them alone. To me, they’re considered Americans.”
While ICE has not yet come back, Farley said she and the neighborhood will be there if they do.
"I would protect them again if it happened again," Farley said. “When ICE does stuff like this, we’re gonna protect our neighbors."