How ‘Know Your Rights Training’ Can Protect You and Others

By Liz Morales

Associate Editor, Vol. 24

Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice. If you are interested in learning about your constitutional rights, please visit the webpage of a legal organization linked below, or consult with a licensed attorney.

The importance of ‘Know Your Rights’ training was recently highlighted in a video showing a man using his training to prevent an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer from arresting two persons.[1] In the clip, an unidentified ICE officer can be seen approaching a vehicle claiming to have a judicial warrant for the arrest of an alien.[2] Sitting in the driver’s seat was Bryan MacCormack, executive director of a nonprofit organization that helps immigrant communities in Columbia County in New York. [3]  

MacCormack and the two undocumented persons he was accompanying had just left the local court house to deal with minor traffic citations when the ICE officer came up to their window.[4] Refusing to open his car door, MacCormack told the ICE officer that the paperwork he was presenting to him was “not signed by a judge” and thus was “not a judicial warrant.”[5] “I have no obligation to oblige by that warrant,” he continued.[6]

MacCormack was able to articulate his rights to the ICE officer thanks in part to his Department of Justice-accredited ‘Know Your Rights’ training.[7] The training had provided attendees with copies of the letter the ICE officer was presenting as well as copies of a ‘real’ warrant, both of which MacCormack had in the car with him.[8] MacCormack said training administrators provided these materials so that “people know not to listen” to documents like the one used by this ICE officer.[9]

In March 2017, ICE issued a new policy regarding ICE detainers.[10] Then Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, described these detainers as requests from ICE to local law enforcements to detain individuals who are scheduled for release until ICE is able to transfer them into federal custody.[11] Many jurisdictions, however, have refused to comply the new policy because forcing someone to stay custody after they are eligible for release likely violates the Fourth Amendment thus subjecting local jurisdictions to “lawsuits and costly detainment.”[12][13]

This point of tension between federal and local authorities has spurred significant litigation with courts landing on different conclusions, but the bottom line for individuals remains the same. In light of the new policy, the Immigration Legal Resource Center reminds the public that if an ICE warrant is not signed by a judge, agent do not have “the authority to demand entry to a home or private space” to make an arrest.[14] ICE is not authorized under law to give itself the right to enter private property without consent. That right comes only from the judiciary. Thus, in the situation above where the agent presented a ‘warrant’ not signed by a judge, MacCormack and the two individuals with him properly enacted their Fourth Amendment rights.

Every person living in the United States, regardless of legal status, has rights and protections under the Constitution. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center, the National Education Association, and the National Lawyers Guild publish reports educating the public on their basic rights.[15] In their report, ‘Know Your Rights: What To Do If You’re Stopped By Police, Immigration Agents of the FBI” the ACLU addresses situations like the one above.[16] More information on this report, and other useful materials are linked below.

More ‘Know Your Rights’ Resources:

[1] Chris Mills Rodrigo, Man Stopped By Ice Uses ‘Know Your Rights’ Training to Prevent Arrest of Immigrants, The Hill (Mar. 28, 2017)

[2] Suzanne Gamboa and Jareen Imam, Man Stopped By ICE Uses ‘Know Your Rights’ Training, Prevents Immigrants’ Arrest, NBC News (Mar. 27, 2019)

[3] Bryan MacCormack is the executive director of the nonprofit organization Columbia County Sanctuary Movement. The nonprofit “organized with, and provides support to, immigrant in Columbia county regardless of immigration status.” More information can be found on their website

[4] Michael Brice-Saddler, An Activist Used a Legal Argument to Stop an Ice Arrest. He Says Others Should Do the Same, Wash. Post (Mar. 29, 2019)

[5] Supra note 2.  

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] The Basics on Ice Warrants and Ice Detainers, Immigration Legal Resource Center (May 2017) (

[11] Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks to Federal Law Enforcement Authorities About Sanctuary Cities, DOJ (Sep. 19, 2017)

[12] Kristie De Pena, Stop Ignoring The Difference Between ICE Detainers and Warrants, Wash. Examiner (April 4, 2017)

[13] ACLU, What ICE Isn’t Telling You About Detainers: A Fact Sheet For Local Law Enforcement Agencies (Oct. 2012)

[14] Supra note 11.

[15] Know Your Rights: What to Do If You’re Stopped by Police, Immigration Agents or the FBI, ACLU (last updated Dec. 6, 2016)

[16] Id.