NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT) -- A Nashville attorney says stepped up enforcement by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency is damaging the trust between immigrants and Middle Tennessee law enforcement.
Back on June 8 ICE agents arrested a Honduran national at the Davidson County Courthouse. That and other recent ICE operations prompted Nashville Mayor Megan Barry to write a scathing letter to the agency complaining that ICE is undermining Metro PD’s efforts to win the trust of the city’s immigrant community.
Nashville immigration attorney Joel Sanderson says that’s exactly what he’s hearing from clients.
“I’ve had immigrants directly tell me that now, in their neighborhood, no one calls the police because they’re too afraid. People don’t want to go and testify in court.”
In a response sent to WMOT, ICE spokesman Thomas Byrd says the agency detains people at courthouses because it’s safer for their agents and the community. Agents know people inside the courthouse have already been screened for weapons.
Attorney Sanderson counters that ICE is endangering the community by making it less likely residents will cooperate with authorities.
He also says many of the targeted immigrants have been part of their mid-state communities for years, sometimes decades, and deserve more respect.
“They’ve worked really hard to be everything that you think of when you think of the American Dream. When you think of like building a small family and buying a home and starting a business and working hard.”
ICE says it concentrates on dangerous immigrants for deportation. Thomas Byrd explains, for example, that the Honduran arrested at the Metro Courthouse is a convicted of burglar and has been deported twice before.