Know your rights, and the rights of others

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  • Shiann is a senior journalism major from Gibson, Georgia. 

Shiann Sivell

Early in March, an immigration activist was traveling with two passengers in his car, later identified as undocumented immigrants.

According to an article from the Washington Post, Bryan MacCormack was driving the two passages from a local courthouse in Hudson, New York after handling a traffic violation.

MacCormack said that he saw two Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers waiting outside the office in their vehicle. The officers watched him and his passengers leave the courthouse and proceeded to follow them.

The confrontation that followed next was documented by one of the passengers in MacCormack’s car with his cellphone.

One of the officers showed MacCormack a document through the driver’s window: a ‘warrant’ to arrest his passengers.

“Those are not warrants of arrest, sir,” MacCormack says to the officer in the video.

“Yes, they are, sir, warrant of arrest of alien,” the officer said.

“Yeah, warrant of arrest of alien, not signed by a judge. It’s not a judicial warrant,” MacCormack responds.

“This is a lawful warrant,” the officer continues.

“Signed by a judge?” MacCormack asks.

The officer continues to say that the warrant is valid under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

However, MacCormack, who also happens to be executive director of the nonprofit organization Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, dismisses his claim.

“OK, that’s fine,” MacCormack says. “But it’s not under the Constitution. You have no jurisdiction over me as a citizen. I’m the driver of this vehicle.”

MacCormack says the officers eventually left without making any arrests, and that they ultimately ‘did not have authority to do anything.’

A copy of a Warrant of Arrest of Alien can be found on the Immigrant Legal Resource Center website.

Since the Trump administration began its extensive crackdown of undocumented immigrants hundreds have people have been needlessly harassed by ICE and Border Patrol.

In a few cases, many citizens are detained simply out of suspicion of being undocumented.

For example, two women were detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for speaking Spanish outside a convenience store in Montana in early February.

Both of the women were legal citizens and born on American soil.

The American Civil Liberties Union later investigated the incident and filed a civil suit, stating that the agent “offered no other justification for their detention” and that the agent’s actions violated the women’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

There are several other cases like these two that show that ICE and Border Patrol are going above the law to detain citizens.

However, there are ways citizens and non-citizens can protect themselves and others.

The simplest way of all is to know the basic laws when it comes to warrants and arrests.

Know your Rights

The idea of being stopped and detained by ICE may seem a bit far-stretched in rural Georgia but that doesn’t mean we still shouldn’t know the difference between a warrant and a virtually unlawful scrap of paper.

1. Warrants are signed by judges

An arrest warrant is an official document signed by a judge, which authorizes a police officer to arrest those named in the warrant. Warrants typically identify the crime for which an arrest has been authorized, and may restrict the manner in which an arrest may be made.

To obtain a warrant, a police officer typically submits a written affidavit to a judge or magistrate. The affidavit, given under oath, must recite sufficient factual information to establish probable cause that a crime was committed and that the person named in the warrant committed it.

Usually, however, if police have a good reason, or a “probable cause” to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person they want to arrest committed the crime, they can make an arrest without asking a judge for a warrant.

The major exception to this is when someone under arrest is in their home.

2. Border Patrol has no right to ask you for your identification unless you within 100 miles of a border zone

In this 100-mile zone, Border Patrol agents have certain additional authorities. For instance, Border Patrol can operate immigration checkpoints.

Border Patrol, nevertheless, cannot pull anyone over without “reasonable suspicion” of an immigration violation or crime and reasonable suspicion is more than just a “hunch.”

Similarly, Border Patrol cannot search vehicles in the 100-mile zone without a warrant or “probable cause” defined as “a reasonable belief, based on the circumstances, that an immigration violation or crime has likely occurred.”

For example, a woman in Nevada stopped the Fourth Amendment violation of search and seizure on a Greyhound bus in June 2018.

In a recent letter to Greyhound’s general counsel, the ACLU explained that Greyhound is not obligated to consent to the Border Patrol’s warrantless and unjustified raids on its buses.

According to, roughly two-thirds of the United States’ population, or about 200 million people, live within the 100-mile zone, or within 100 miles of a U.S. land or coastal border.

The following states lie entirely or nearly entirely within the 100-mile zone:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

3. Immigrants have the right to due process.

In some cases, however, illegal citizens are not granted a hearing.

At the beginning of President Trump’s ‘zero policy’ immigration crackdown, he tweeted that undocumented immigrants should be immediately returned “from where they came” with “no judges or court cases.”

When asked about the president’s tweet, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders pointed to the process of “expedited removal,” which was created by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.

“Just because you don’t see a judge doesn’t mean you aren’t receiving due process,” Sanders said.

It’s not all black and white, it’s hardly gray

There are so many issues when it comes to arrests, and even more so when it comes to arrests of undocumented immigrants.

However, one thing that is clear is that these mass raids on people are a violation of human rights. Taking children from their parents and locking them in detention centers is cruel, and no law should justify what the U.S. is doing to them and their parents.

If the president truly wants to stop excess deportation and immigration, he should talk with the leaders of these countries and assist with finding solutions for the people rather than continue with this unnecessary cruelty.

Shiann Sivell, The George-Anne Enterprise Reporter,