Prominent immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement last month, for another check-in, one year after a federal court ordered ICE to release him from detention. Mr. Ragbir is a long-time permanent resident, but since Trump's 'zero tolerance' immigration policy went into effect he faces permanent exile from his life in the United States.
Is ICE targeting him because of his activism? Or is he a victim of overzealous immigration agents emboldened by President Trump's immigration policy?
Community members, elected officials, and faith leaders gathered outside ICE headquarters at 26 Federal Plaza on January 28th in lower Manhattan to show solidarity with Mr. Ragbir and others like him who are under threat of imminent detention and deportation. Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Ydanis Rodriguez stood by his side as he presented himself to ICE agents for a check-in: both councilmen were arrested during the protests that erupted last year. No one knew for sure if he would be detained again or emerge a free man.
Ravi Ragbir walked out of the federal building to around a hundred supporters. He said to the crowd, “We know that the intimidation of ICE and the Trump Administration is deliberately trying to break the community’s spirit. But what we have seen here today is everyone coming together–elected officials, faith leaders, community members–to stand up against the inhumanity of ICE policies. Together we will bring down the walls of injustice and abolish ICE.”
Mr. Ragbir works as an immigration activist and is the Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, an organization devoted to immigrant rights. He has also lived under threat of deportation for nearly a decade. This threat is the result of a 16-year old wire fraud conviction. Despite the fact that Mr. Ragbir was a 15-year green card holder and husband with deep community ties in 2006, a judge ordered him deported. The reason cited was a 2001 wire fraud conviction, which he is currently seeking to vacate. Still, Mr. Ragbir was detained and ordered deported by an immigration judge—without a hearing. He was subject to mandatory, indefinite detention for years in New Jersey and Alabama, far from his community.
According to a group of community members and advocates who have fought for him to stay in the country, Mr. Ragbir is experiencing the worst of the deportation system. Attorney William Perdue contends that the courts denied Mr. Ragbir the opportunity to present evidence of his character and strong community ties by denying him a hearing. His supporters claim ICE detained and attempted to deport Mr. Ragbir because of his outspoken activism against the Trump administration’s immigration policies. They argued all this in front of a three-judge panel to get a stay of deportation and he was later released.
Through his own struggle to remain in the United States, Mr. Ragbir became active in supporting other immigrants who were facing similar challenges. Today, Mr. Ragbir is a nationally recognized leader in the immigrant rights movement. The coalition he runs offers a weekly legal clinic to help those facing deportation manage their cases.
Following his release last year, Mr. Ragbir and several immigrant rights organizations filed a First Amendment lawsuit challenging the targeting of immigrant rights activists who speak out against the deportation machine.
ICE cannot legally deport Mr. Ragbir at this time, as he has a stay of deportation due to the First Amendment case before the federal appeals court. That case remains pending.
Recently, Mr. Ragbir encouraged his city and state representatives to write more immigration legislation. Separation of Children Accountability Response Act was introduced last year, it is co-sponsored by State Senator Brian Benjamin and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein. You can watch Assembly Member Epstein and Mr. Ragbir discuss immigration and the SCAR Act this Sunday, February 17th at 7PM on MNN's "Represent NYC."
Ravi Ragbir (Photo by the Futuro Media Group)