A New York activist who successfully prevented the arrest of two undocumented immigrants traveling with him earlier this month says his case underscores the importance of understanding constitutional rights.
The efforts of 30-year-old Bryan MacCormack, executive director of the nonprofit organization Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, went viral this week after video showed him refusing to open his car door for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers attempting to detain two of his passengers.
MacCormack was pulled over March 5 while driving two community members from a local courthouse in Hudson, N.Y., where they were handling a traffic violation, to their attorney’s office.
“We believe they were waiting outside of the court in their vehicle,” MacCormack, a Hudson native, said in an interview Thursday. “They watched us leave and proceeded to follow us.”
“Those are not warrants of arrest, sir,” MacCormack tells the officer.
“Yes, they are, sir, warrant of arrest of alien,” the officer retorts, appearing to read the document he was presenting, which he later called “lawful.”
MacCormack responds: “Yeah, warrant of arrest of alien — not signed by a judge. It’s not a judicial warrant.”
MacCormack said he hopes the incident sheds light on the benefits of people knowing their constitutional rights — not just immigrants. He said it’s important to note his passengers also exercised their rights; they did not provide identification, open the door or respond to questions directed toward them — all things the sanctuary teaches as part of their “know your rights” training.
The group’s website features instructions and learning materials in English and Spanish for those who may find themselves in similar situations.
“I believe that the more people who exercise their rights, the stronger those rights become, and the less easily they’re violated by authorities,” MacCormack said. “Especially in a time of aggressive enforcement of immigration laws — unjust immigration laws, in my eyes.”
For video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8z7HkHVP6oU