Reprinted with permission from the Times Union
HUDSON — Immigration activists thwarted an attempt by federal immigration officers to arrest two undocumented residents last week.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation officers stopped Bryan MacCormack, executive director of the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, on Tuesday, March 5, while he was driving away from the Hudson City Court with two undocumented immigrants in his car.
The undocumented passengers are from Central America and have lived in the Hudson area for years, Mr. MacCormack said. They had been in court that morning for traffic-related offenses.
The incident highlighted increased ICE arrests under President Donald Trump’s administration, especially in and around courthouses. A recent report revealed courthouse arrests spiked 1,700 percent under the Trump administration, with at least 18 incidents reported in the Capital Region last year.
Bills introduced this legislative session in the New York state Assembly and Senate would outlaw courthouse arrests without a judicial warrant — the crux of the argument during the March 5 incident.
According to Mr. MacCormack, three ICE agents surrounded the car and asked him and his passengers for identification. Mr. MacCormack handed over his drivers license but the passengers invoked their right to remain silent. One started recording the incident on his cell phone.
The ICE agents showed an administrative arrest warrant that named the two community members. Mr. MacCormack said that he argued that ICE agents needed a judicial warrant, signed by a judge, and refused to comply.
ICE agents can make an arrest with an administrative warrant but cannot use the document to conduct search and seizures, like entering a home or car, according to federal law.
Mr. MacCormack said the officers asked them if he knew the immigration law criminalizing harboring, transporting and smuggling non-citizens, which carries a penalty of up to a year in prison.
Mr. MacCormack called his attorney. ICE called Hudson Police.
Hudson Police Chief Edward Moore said he sent two cars after an ICE agent called just before 9 a.m. and reported he was meeting resistance from Mr. MacCormack and his passengers. Mr. MacCormack’s attorney also showed up on the scene and reiterated ICE needed a judicial warrant to enter the car.
City police watched the situation at a distance for nine minutes, Chief Moore said, before ICE let them know that they were not conducting arrests and left. The entire encounter lasted less than 20 minutes, Mr. MacCormack said.
ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said ICE officers departed the scene to avoid further disruption.
“Individuals who intervene in or seek to impede ICE officers while they are carrying out their mission recklessly endanger not only the enforcement personnel, but also the individuals targeted for arrest and potentially innocent bystanders,” he wrote in an email. “Despite these attempts to obstruct ICE’s lawful efforts to apprehend criminal aliens and immigration violators, the agency remains committed to its efforts to uphold public safety.”
Mr. MacCormick accused Hudson police of collaborating with ICE in violation of an executive order issued by the city’s police commissioner and mayor in May 2017.
The order dictates how local law enforcement should engage with the federal immigration agency, prohibiting city cops from asking people about their immigration status, stopping or detaining someone because of that status, holding individuals in custody for ICE to arrest without a judicial warrant, and keeping and providing information about individuals to ICE. It also requires police to report all ICE-related incidents to city officials.
Chief Moore denied working with ICE and said police responded to the call to protect public safety.
“We were simply monitoring. If it had gotten violent, like fighting or shooting, we’re going to involve our officers,” Chief Moore said. “We’re always going to be transparent in our interactions. There has never been any collaboration. We’re always going to respond to any incident of this order where public safety is compromised. If a citizen calls, if a non-citizen calls, if other police agencies call, we are always going to respond. It’s always done in the matter of public safety.”
Mr. MacCormack, police and elected officials met last Friday to discuss the incident and the executive order.
Hudson Common Council members are set to meet informally Monday evening to discuss the event. Two members of the council showed up as witnesses during the March 5 encounter.
“Anytime our neighbors are under attack we will stand up for them,” Alderman Tiffany Garriga said in a statement. “ICE has no place in our city.”
For now, Mr. MacCormack said, the two immigrants targeted by ICE during the traffic stop are staying in an interfaith sanctuary.