CNN Making Folk Heroes Out of Villains

CNN recently posted an article to its website lauding so-called “immigrant rights advocate” Bryan MacCormack for interfering with an attempt by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to arrest two illegal aliens.

In early March, MacCormack, who is the executive director of the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, was driving two illegal aliens home from a state court appearance in Hudson, New York. He was pulled over by ICE Deportation Officers who were attempting to execute an arrest warrant for his passengers.

Rather than complying with the Deportation Officers’ lawful requests, MacCormack insisted that he was not obligated to surrender his passengers because the officers were not in possession of a judicial arrest warrant, issued by a court. He also asserted that, because he is a U.S. citizen, ICE has no authority to stop him. Eventually ICE officers backed off, in order to ensure the safety of all involved.

According to CNN, immigration advocates” claim that “ICE warrants aren’t the same as warrants other law enforcement agencies get judges to approve in court,” and “they don’t give agents authority to conduct searches inside homes or vehicles without consent.” The CNN piece falsely implies that MacCormack is a civil rights crusader who sent a powerful message to a government agency trying to overreach its legitimate authority.

But there’s a major problem with CNN’s piece: It’s chock-full of wild attempts to mislead readers.

First off, ICE doesn’t need a judicial warrant to arrest an illegal alien. In, Fong Yue Ting v. United States, the Supreme Court held that deportation is not a punishment, it’s a form of civil restitution that returns an alien to the country where he/she does have authorization to reside. Therefore, an immigration violator does not face deprivation of life, liberty or property during immigration proceedings.

For that reason, as the Court held in Wing Wong v. United States, “the provisions of the Constitution securing the right of trial by jury and prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures and cruel and unusual punishments have no application” to civil immigration enforcement.

CNN is correct that ICE civil arrest warrants are different from other warrants. ICE officers arrest illegal aliens and other immigration violators pursuant to statutory authority set forth in 8 U.S. Code § 1357. That provision sets forth an administrative warrant framework, which readily meets the relatively low due process requirements applicable to foreign nationals wanted for civil violations of our immigration laws. When effectuating criminal arrests, ICE uses the exact same judicial warrant process employed by every other federal agency.

CNN is also correct that ICE arrest warrants don’t actually give agents the authority to conduct searches inside homes or vehicles without consent. But neither do the arrest warrants used by other agencies. There’s a big difference between an arrest warrant and a search warrant, although CNN never bothers to point this out.

ICE does, in fact, have jurisdiction over U.S. citizens breaking the federal laws it is charged with enforcing. That includes citizens who knowingly transport illegal aliens and interfere with federal officers in the performance of official duties.

So, it turns out that CNNs folk hero is actually just a guy violating federal law. Rather than a win for justice, Mr. MacCormack’s efforts simply undermine the rule of law and public safety. It’s a crying shame that the mainstream media continues to give MacCormack, and others like him who are woefully ignorant of the law, a platform to mislead the public with their nonsense.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar
    Daniel Condon on

    Wouldn’t that be harbor and abiding ?after all illegals broke federal laws and MAC Cormic was intefeaing with ICE.

  2. avatar

    If the state court appearance was about their permission to reside in the US then the ICE officers were obstructing the court’s authority.

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  4. avatar
    Dave Mittner on

    He writes “It’s chock-full of wild attempts to mislead readers” and then immediately sets out to misread readers, himself.

    By his own writing, MacCormack said that “because he is a U.S. citizen, ICE has no authority to stop him”, but rebuts that foremost by saying that “ICE doesn’t need a judicial warrant to arrest an illegal alien.” Okay? MacCormack didn’t say ICE didn’t have the authority to arrest an illegal alien. MacCormack said ICE didn’t have the authority to stop HIM or search HIS vehicle without a judicial warrant.

    ICE’s infraction wasn’t that they were trying to arrest an illegal alien. Their infraction was that they were violating the rights of a US citizen in trying to do so. And it seems they recognized that, seeing as though they left.

    So where or not CNN was misleading, I don’t know. But it takes balls to accuse them of being misleading only to immediately mislead, yourself.

    • avatar

      They weren’t searching his car. As you admit, they don’t need an official judicial warrant. They knew who he had in the car since he was driving them home from court. He should have been arrested for interference, which is what he was doing.