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ICE arrest in Nashville courtroom fuels debate on illegal immigration policies

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Immigration agents nab an undocumented felon Thursday in a Davidson County Courtroom.

Immigration and refugee rights advocates say they went about it the wrong way, using a tactic that's spreading fear of the judicial system.

Undocumented immigrants rallied earlier this week to support Metro Council bills that would protect immigrants from what happened to Faustino Hernandez.

"Yesterday's arrest sent a really dangerous message to the immigrant community that courts are places to avoid," said Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, policy director for Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition.

When Hernandez showed up in General Sessions Court for driving without a license, Immigration Customs Enforcement Agents arrested him.

"ICE called the court that morning and said they wanted to pick up Mr. Hernandez and that they had a warrant," Sherman-Nikolaus said.

According to the regional ICE Office, Hernandez is a felon with convictions for aggravated burglary, DUI, and other misdemeanor charges . ICE said he's been deported twice before.

The Metro Council is considering a bill that would require immigration agents to get a criminal warrant before asking a jail to hold and inmate on an ICE detainer. Proponents say the bill sends the wrong message that Nashville is sanctuary city for immigrants possibly running afoul of the law.

TIRRC's Policy Director said ICE Warrants are not signed by a judge like judicial warrants and local courts have no obligation to enforce them.

"We want to make sure local agencies are not carrying out the work of the federal government," said Sherman-Nikolaus. "When they cooperate in this way or help ICE carry out deportations, it erodes trust in the immigrant community."

ICE said many of the targets arrested near courthouses are foreign nationals who have prior criminal convictions.

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Because courthouse visitors are typically screened for weapons, the safety risk for the arresting officer and the arrestee inside such facilities are substantially diminished.

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