Know Your Rights: Thugs and Monsters Are Everywhere

Trump's America. Photos by Mark Lambie/El Paso Times

In the last few days we've witnessed the sickening spectacle of hundreds of destitute, powerless, terrified migrants crammed into concentration camps, aka "transitional shelters," corralled behind razor wire, and forced to sleep on the ground under a bridge in El Paso. This, while our so-called president, bloated with vengeance and hubris, chose to mock those same people for fleeing for their lives, thus confirming he is "genuinely one of the worst human beings in the history of US public life." Because these are monsters who can always go lower, the next day his Homeland Security horror Kirstjen Nielsen proposed deporting unaccompanied kids - and detaining their families indefinitely - because "my greatest concern is for the children." As the cruelties mount, some of the most egregious abuses are carried out by mindless, loyal accomplices with boots on the ground - the increasingly out-of-control thugs of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hence, we take solace from a recent video showing immigration rights activist Bryan MacCormack, 30, shutting down an attempted arrest by said thugs with the lethal weapon of his legal rights. The head of Columbia County Sanctuary Movement in upstate New York, he was driving two undocumented immigrants back from court to deal with minor traffic citations when they were pulled over by ICE agents with a "warrant of arrest of alien." Both MacCormack and his passengers had done "know your rights" training; they remained silent and started filming, and he quickly called out the paper being waved as an administrative warrant that doesn't require compliance, not a judicial warrant signed by a judge, which does - thereby allowing him to issue the delectably stirring pronouncement, "I have no obligation to oblige by that warrant.” He also offered to show the agents a "real" warrant, which he had with him “just so people know not to listen to that,” and called the group's lawyer.

The ICE guys tried to bully through, asking if MacCormack knew the law governing "harboring, transporting and smuggling of 'illegal aliens'” - he did - and calling police for backup. They eventually walked away, but later issued a threat that people who impede them "expose themselves to potential criminal violations." Such scare tactics are part of their playbook, said Gloria Martinez of the Columbia group, like their vests that say "POLICE" to confront vulnerable people: “Everyone sees ICE as very powerful and feels they have to do what they say." In fact, ICE only gets a legit, judge-authorized warrant in 2 of 12 arrests; the rest are illegal, which is why the group teaches immigrants to challenge them. Even for MacCormack, a white male citizen, the stop highlights the importance of that training and the fact that "living in this country, you have rights that are guaranteed under the Constitution." The two men with him, he said, "were fully aware of what was happening, and they were exercising their rights. This really isn’t about me. It’s about what happens when people in general know their rights."

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