Judge: Immigration Agent Nearly Arrested Wrong Man at Nashville Courthouse

A Nashville judge says a federal immigration agent who took a man from her courtroom last week nearly arrested the wrong man earlier in the day.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent took Faustino Rodriguez Hernandez into custody Thursday to begin deportation proceedings while the judge and a defense lawyer were in another room, according to General Sessions Judge Lynda Jones.

But Jones said Friday the agent also had come to the courthouse earlier Thursday.

“The agent informed my court officer that the true warranted individual was the ‘spittin image’ of the gentleman who was almost wrongfully arrested,” Jones wrote in an email. “My court officer stated that the ICE agent then said, ‘TRUST ME.’ ”

The men looked nothing alike, according to Jones.

A spokesman for ICE said Hernandez is a citizen of Honduras.

“Rodriguez is an aggravated felon with convictions for aggravated burglary, driving under the influence, as well as other misdemeanor charges,” ICE spokesman Thomas Byrd said in an email. “Rodriguez has been removed from the U.S. on two previous occasions.”

He said deportation officers are prosecuting Hernandez for illegal re-entry into the U.S.

ICE’s presence at the Justice A.A. Birch Building criminal courthouse was seen by many as a harbinger of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration.

Nationally, ICE arrests of those who entered the nation illegally were up 38 percent in the first 100 days of Trump’s tenure from the same time period in 2016, according to the federal agency.

And in that time, the government arrested 10,845 people whose only charge was an immigration violation, according to federal data released in May, more than twice the number in the same period last year under former President Barack Obama.

Hernandez had previously faced a charge of driving without a license, records show, and he was in court in Nashville on Thursday to show proof he’d completed a class.

By Stacey Barchenger for The Tennesse
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