hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


News April 2019



Activists push Hudson police on ICE arrests


The city of Hudson, N.Y., is reviewing its policies for how city police interact with federal immigration agents after an early March incident in which local activists thwarted the arrest of two immigrants from Central America.

The city has an active sanctuary movement, and the mayor and other elected officials adopted a policy in 2017 that bars city police from asking people about their immigration status, sharing information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents – or holding people in custody for ICE without a warrant signed by a judge.

But some city officials and activists say local police aren’t doing enough to avoid helping ICE.
The Register-Star of Hudson reported that in the March 5 incident that led to the current discussion, two immigrants were passengers in a car being driven by Bryan MacCormack, the executive director of the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, when three ICE agents surrounded the car about 9 a.m. near Fifth and Warren streets, a few blocks from the Columbia County Courthouse.

Lying in wait for immigrants at courthouses has become a favorite tactic of ICE since President Trump took office. A report released in January documented 374 ICE arrests at courthouses around New York in 2017 and 2018, compared with just 11 such arrests in 2016. There have been about a dozen ICE arrests at the Columbia County Courthouse alone, activists say.
MacCormack told the Times Union of Albany that the two passengers in his car, who have lived in the area for years, had just visited the courthouse to deal with traffic-related offenses, and he was attempting to drive away when ICE agents approached the car and asked for identification. He said he presented his driver’s license but his passengers invoked their right to remain silent.
The ICE agents presented an administrative warrant naming the two passengers. But while an administrative warrant can be used to make an arrest, officers can’t legally enter a home or car to conduct a search without a judicial warrant.

“I knew it was not a judicial warrant,” MacCormack told the Register-Star. “I told him none of my passengers had to comply. The warrant was not signed by a judge. There is nothing that makes it a legal document that we have to comply with.”

From his car, MacCormack called his lawyer and also summoned other activists to the scene to serve as witnesses. Tiffany Garriga, a city alderwoman and Common Council majority leader, was among those who showed up.

The ICE agents called city Police Chief L. Edward Moore, who sent two patrol cars to the scene. After about 15 minutes, the ICE officers backed off, and MacCormack and his passengers continued on their way.

Moore said city police were not there to assist ICE in its attempted arrest but were present only to ensure public safety in case the situation escalated or turned violent. But MacCormack, Garriga and others said it appeared to them that the local officers were “collaborating” with ICE.
After a series of meetings over the next 10 days with Mayor Rick Rector, other city officials and local immigration rights activists including MacCormack, the Register-Star reported that Moore agreed to adopt a new policy in which city officers who might respond to similar incidents in the future will be trained to recognize different types of warrants -- and to ask ICE agents whether they are acting on the basis of an administrative or judicial warrant.

In other news from around the region in March:

Town faces third vote on plastic bottles
Voters in Great Barrington, Mass., may soon be voting for a third time on whether to carry out a townwide ban on the sale of plastic water bottles.

Townspeople voted in May 2018 to ban the most common type of single-serving water containers – those made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic. The proposal, which passed by a show of hands at last year’s annual town meeting, made Great Barrington the third municipality in the nation to outlaw the plastic bottles. Supporters said the local law, which covers bottles of 1 liter or less, will be a step toward reducing plastic wastes that have been accumulating in the world’s oceans.

Opponents of the law, including some local retailers, have argued the law will essentially force businesses to foot the bill for an environmental statement that’s mainly symbolic. They petitioned for a second vote on the issue in August, but the law survived by a 3-2 margin in a secret-ballot vote.

The Berkshire Eagle reported last month that opponents have now filed a petition calling for another vote on repealing the ban – at this year’s town meeting on May 6.
The plastic bottle ban technically took effect Jan. 1, but the town has opted not to enforce the ban until May 2020.
-- Compiled by Fred Daley