Press Release: Legal Experts Urge Biden Administration to Protect Immigrants’ First Amendment Rights

New Complaint Describes Widespread Practice of Retaliation Against Immigrant Activists

July 19, 2021 — The Immigrant Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law (“NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic) and the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic (“Cornell First Amendment Clinic”) filed a joint complaint with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (OCRCL) alleging a widespread pattern of retaliation by federal immigration officials against immigrant activists and others who publicly criticize U.S. immigration policy. The complaint urges immediate action to protect those who have already been targeted for their activism and policy changes to ensure such retaliation does not occur in the future.

“Far too many immigrants live in fear that if they speak up for their rights, they will be targeted for arrest and deportation,” says Alina Das, Professor of Clinical Law and Co-Director of the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic. “So long as federal immigration officials are free to target immigrants with impunity, the immigrant rights movement is in peril.”

The NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic documented more than one thousand instances of First Amendment retaliation in recent years, including the cases of prominent activists Claudio Rojas, Jean Montrevil, and Ravi Ragbir. Federal immigration officials in Miami detained and deported Mr. Rojas to Argentina in 2019 after a documentary film, The Infiltrators, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, featuring his activism. Federal immigraiton officials in New York detained Mr. Montrevil and Mr. Ragbir in 2018 after they spoke critically of the agency as part of the sanctuary movement, deporting Mr. Montrevil to Haiti shortly thereafter. DHS continues to pursue Mr. Ragbir’s deportation to Trinidad and Tobago. The complaint asks DHS to exercise its discretion to protect these individuals and others from the harm of First Amendment retaliation, and seeks broader policy changes. 

“The First Amendment has always been the foundation of progress and the cornerstone of democracy in the United States,” says Jared Carter, Associate Director of the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic. “The Biden Administration must end policies that violate the basic First Amendment principle that no person should be subject to government retaliation for exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech or freedom of assembly.”


Watch: Congressional Briefing on Immigrant Rights Activists Under Attack

On January 13, 2021, the New Sanctuary Coalition, the Immigrant Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law, the National Immigrant Justice Center, Migrant Justice, and the Immigrant Justice Network held a panel discussion with targeted leaders of the immigrant rights movement. Clinic students also presented an interactive map highlighting the breadth of the government’s campaign to silence immigrant leaders. With the Biden Administration soon to take office, this moment calls for a public reckoning of our country’s immigration policy. Immigrant voices must be protected and centered in this conversation. The briefing addressed what members of Congress can do to defend and prevent further retaliation against the rights of their constituents and members of the immigrant community.

Also see the English-language transcript here. [Spanish version is in the works.]

Listen and/or download the audio here:

Media Advisory Wed 1/13: Congressional Briefing: Immigrant Rights Activists Targeted by DHS Call for Relief and Accountability on the Eve of Biden Inauguration

WHAT: Congressional Briefing: Immigrant Rights Activists Targeted by DHS Call for Relief and Accountability on the Eve of Biden Inauguration 

WHEN: Jan 13, 2021 2 – 3 PM ET 

WHERE: Virtual (Zoom). Please RSVP here

DETAILS: Targeted immigrant rights leaders will speak at a virtual congressional briefing to address how agencies within the Department of Homeland Security retaliate against immigrants for exercising their protected First Amendment rights. Scheduled to speak are: Enrique “Kike” Balcazar, Alejandra Pablos, Ravi Ragbir, Jahsiah Montrevil, Rev. Kaji Spellman Douša. 

This briefing will highlight how immigrant rights activists have faced arrest, deportation, detention, retaliation inside detention centers, and surveillance for standing up to injustices in their community. The Immigrant Rights Clinic at NYU Law School has documented over 1,000 publicly-reported cases of retaliation and surveillance. The breadth of these abuses are evidence of how federal agencies are undermining core tenets of an open, free society.  

The briefing will focus attention on the urgent need for Congress and the incoming Biden Administration to provide immediate forms of immigration relief to targeted activists and to pursue accountability measures that can reign in the unchecked authority of these agencies. Members of Congress will discuss what elected officials can do to redress these wrongs.

Additional information about the campaign to end First Amendment retaliation is available at: 


  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) 
  • Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY-9) 
  • Rep. Nydia Velazquez (NY-7)
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-7) 
  • New Sanctuary Coalition 
  • Immigrant Rights Clinic at NYU Law School
  • Migrant Justice 
  • Immigrant Justice Network 


Year End Greetings from Ravi and Amy

Ravi and Amy in Orient, NY in early October 2020. Credit: Loris Guzzetta

Dear Community,

As this challenging year draws to a close, we write to share a message of hope with you, our family and community.

The last time we wrote to you directly, we included our hope that we’d have a new president-elect. Well, here we are, a few months later, and in fact that hope has been achieved. We will have a new president, and some of the devastating stressors that we have all lived under for the last four years may be alleviated. At the same time, Ravi’s case is far from resolved, but we continue to hold out our hopes that with all of your support, the threat of deportation will be lifted and we’ll be able to live our lives at peace.

We also share a bit of good news: Ravi has a stay of deportation because of our First Amendment lawsuit against ICE retaliation, and his check-in that was scheduled for tomorrow, December 18, has been moved to May 13, 2021. We are grateful for this reprieve, and of course for all of your accompaniment in this very long process.

We know the fight is long over, and the harm to our communities runs deep. ICE has targeted, surveilled and retaliated against so many immigrant rights activists, instances of retaliation which are documented here. But through it all, we know that together we will win this and we will move toward justice and fairness for everyone.

Our very best wishes to each and every one of you.

Love, Amy and Ravi

Immigrant Rights Voices Map Launch // Lanzamiento del sitio “Immigrant Rights Voices”

español sigue


In response to widespread efforts to silence immigrant communities, the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic and New Sanctuary Coalition Launch #ProtectImmigrantVoices Campaign 

For immediate release

November 1, 2020 — The New York University School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC) and New Sanctuary Coalition (NSC) announce the launch of the Immigrant Rights Voices website and the #ProtectImmigrantVoices campaign.  The Immigrant Rights Voices website features an interactive map documenting over a thousand instances of retaliation against immigrant rights defenders by numerous federal government agencies and highlights the personal accounts of immigrant rights leaders who have been arrested, jailed, surveilled, and deported for their activism. By abusing its immense power in an attempt to stamp out dissenting voices in immigrant communities, the government is flagrantly trampling on our First Amendment right to speak truth to power. In response, IRC and NSC, in collaboration with numerous organizations and individuals directly impacted by retaliation, have launched the #ProtectImmigrantVoices campaign to highlight this widespread pattern of retaliation and demand an end to these practices.

Timed to launch on the eve of the election and coinciding with a feature in The Intercept, the #ProtectImmigrantVoices campaign makes the case for why it is more critical than ever to protect the rights of immigrants to speak freely and organize collectively. By exposing the government’s playbook of threats, retaliation, and intimidation, and highlighting the continued resistance and resilience of those targeted, we send a clear message: immigrant rights activists and immigrant communities will not be silenced.  

Please join our campaign by: 

Sample Tweets 

  1. .@ICEgov and others are engaged in a widespread campaign to silence immigrants. Arrests, deportations, raids, and surveillance—all part of a plan to deny activists their constitutional right to free speech. #ProtectImmigrantVoices 
  1. Over 1K instances of retaliation against immigrant rights activists. @DHSgov @ICEgov @CBP @theJusticeDept and other agencies chilling immigrant speech in our communities. Map at #ProtectImmigrantVoices
  1. Immigrant rights defenders have exposed an inhumane immigration system. @ICEgov @CBP @the JusticeDept and others have tried to silence them 1000+ times. Their voices have never been more important. #ProtectImmigrantVoices 

Additional sample posts are available via our social media toolkit here. Graphics are available for download here


Chiraayu Gosrani
NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic
P: 919-801-8569

Eleuthera Sa
NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic
P: 646-269-3011

En Español:


En respuesta a los esfuerzos generalizados para silenciar a las comunidades de inmigrantes, la Clínica de Derechos de los Inmigrantes de la NYU y la Coalición Nuevo Santuario lanzan la campaña #ProtectImmigrantVoices

Para publicación inmediata – 

1 de noviembre 2020 — La Clínica de Derechos de los Inmigrantes de la NYU (IRC) y la Coalición Nuevo Santuario (NSC) anuncian el lanzamiento del sitio web Immigrant Rights Voices y la campaña #ProtectImmigrantVoices. El sitio web Immigrant Rights Voices presenta un mapa interactivo que documenta más de mil casos de represalias contra los defensores de los derechos de los inmigrantes por parte de numerosas agencias del gobierno federal y destaca los relatos personales de los líderes de los derechos de los inmigrantes que han sido arrestados, encarcelados, vigilados y deportados por su activismo. Al abusar de su inmenso poder en un intento de silenciar las voces disidentes en las comunidades de inmigrantes, el gobierno está pisoteando flagrantemente nuestro derecho de la Primera Enmienda a decir la verdad al poder. En respuesta, IRC y NSC, en colaboración con numerosas organizaciones e individuos directamente afectados por represalias, lanzaron la campaña #ProtectImmigrantVoices para resaltar este patrón generalizado de represalias y exigir el fin de estas prácticas.

Programada para ser lanzada en vísperas de las elecciones y coincidiendo con un artículo de The Intercept, la campaña #ProtectImmigrantVoices explica por qué es más crítico que nunca proteger los derechos de los inmigrantes a hablar libremente y organizarse colectivamente. Al exponer cómo el gobierno hace amenazas, represalias e intimidación, y al resaltar la resistencia continua y la capacidad de recuperación, enviamos un mensaje claro: los activistas de derechos de los inmigrantes y las comunidades de inmigrantes no serán silenciados.

Por favor únase a nuestra campaña por: 

Hashtag de la campaña: #ProtectImmigrantVoices // #ProtegeVocesInmigrantes 

Tweets de muestra

  1. .@ICEgov y otros están involucrados en una campaña para silenciar a los inmigrantes. Arrestos, deportaciones, redadas y vigilancia: todo es parte de un plan para negar a los activistas sus derechos constitucionales. #ProtectImmigrantVoices
  1. Más de mil casos de represalias contra activistas por los derechos de los inmigrantes. @DHSgov @ICEgov @CBP @theJusticeDept y otras agencias enfrían el discurso de los inmigrantes en nuestras comunidades. Mapa: #ProtectImmigrantVoices
  1. Los defensores de los derechos de los inmigrantes han expuesto un sistema de inmigración inhumano. @ICEgov @CBP @TheJusticeDept y otros han tratado de silenciarlos más de 1000 veces. Sus voces nunca han sido más importantes. #ProtectImmigrantVoices

Publicaciones de muestra adicionales están disponibles a través de nuestro kit de herramientas de redes sociales aquí. Los gráficos están disponibles para descargar aquí.


Chiraayu Gosrani
NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic
P: 919-801-8569

Eleuthera Sa
NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic
P: 646-269-3011


Ravi’s Case is Back in the Second Circuit, but His First Amendment Retaliation Claim Lives On

Dear friends,

Thank you for your support of Ravi and Amy over the years. We are writing to let you know that we recently received word that the Supreme Court has sent Ravi’s First Amendment case back down to the Second Circuit for a second look. 

Today’s order from the Supreme Court does not call into question the Second Circuit’s ruling that deporting immigrant-rights activists in retaliation for their political speech violates the First Amendment.  Such retaliation remains illegal and wrong.  The only question posed by today’s order is whether federal courts have jurisdiction to hear such First Amendment claims, and for multiple reasons, they clearly do, and Ravi’s legal team welcomes the opportunity to brief the jurisdictional issue further in the Second Circuit.

While today’s order will prolong the case, we remain hopeful that justice will continue to prevail at the Second Circuit and that nothing will change the ultimate outcome: ICE cannot weaponize the immigration laws to silence its critics. And, while this case again proceeds before the Second Circuit, a judicial stay of Ravi’s deportation remains in place.

Please stay in touch as we share further updates. Ravi and Amy are particularly grateful for your support during this time because the ongoing uncertainty and looming threat of deportation has been and continues to be overwhelming. Your support is a source of comfort and inspiration through the worst of times.

Together, back in 2018, we told ICE that they can’t deport a movement. It’s true. The movement is still here, and so is Ravi, and we will keep fighting. Thank you for standing with us.

With love and gratitude,
Ravi’s Defense Committee

Press Release: Supporters of Immigrant Rights Leader Ravi Ragbir Hold Solidarity Rally On Day of His ICE Check In


Photo by Gili Getz

Ragbir not detained but must check in again July 23

Today at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan, 150-200 community members rallied to support immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir for his check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ragbir was accompanied by a delegation of elected officials and faith leaders to his appointment inside 26 Federal Plaza. Although he was not detained, Ragbir must return on July 23.

At the rally, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams told the assembled crowd, “I happen to have the privilege of being a citizen. And everybody who has privilege has to use that to protect those who don’t, those who are being abused and oppressed. That is our duty to stand in the gap. It is our duty to make sure we are lifting up those who have been oppressed by a system…. How do you have a life when you have to check in every six months and you don’t know what’s going to happen?”

Pastor Kaji Dousa, Senior Pastor, Park Avenue Christian Church and co-chair, New Sanctuary Coalition, said at the rally, “Ravi Ragbir is one of the strongest forces in the immigration movement, standing up with and for righteousness, rights, and the soul of our city & nation. For his work, ICE has tried to silence and disappear him. Ravi belongs right here, in his home, New York City, which stands with him every step of the way. When he walks out of ICE today, he will walk right back into his activism. Because the government of this impeached President cannot and will not stop this movement.”

Congressmember Yvette Clarke, who also spoke at the rally and accompanied Ragbir inside the ICE office, said “I was honored to accompany Ravi, a highly revered human rights activist to his check in today, joined by Congressmember Nydia Velasquez. Of course there was a lot of bureaucratic tousling but we ultimately got into his check in. He is stayed again for another six months, but this system needs to be changed. He is no threat to our communities. He has been lawful in his presence and we look forward to his vindication.”

Alina Das, Ragbir’s attorney said, “When ICE detained Ravi two years ago, they said it was because of public safety. But we are the public, and we are safer because Ravi is here. ICE targeted Ravi because he spoke out against a cruel and unjust system. He is still here because the public has spoken out for him. We are grateful that Ravi is still with us, and we will continue to fight to protect the rights of all immigrants.”

Ragbir’s wife, Amy Gottlieb, said “We are so grateful to have the support of our legal team, our families, our friends, our elected officials, our faith leaders, as ICE continues to try to exert power over our lives. But we know that we will walk out each time, and that our power as a united community will overcome injustice and lead us to victory.”

Background: Ragbir received his greencard in 1994, but now faces the double punishment of deportation based on a single fraud conviction he received almost twenty years ago. He was given a final order of deportation in 2007 but was placed on an order of supervision in 2008, allowing him to live and work in the U.S. During that time, he became active in the immigrant rights movement, and paid the price for that activism when ICE detained him on Jan. 11, 2018, and tried to deport him.

A federal appeals court has recognized that the First Amendment protects immigrants from retaliation for their protected political speech and has issued a temporary stay of Mr. Ragbir’s deportation. The government is deciding whether to appeal the decision.


Press Advisory: Supporters of Immigrant Rights Leader Ravi Ragbir Will Hold Solidarity Rally On Day of His ICE Check In: Thursday, Jan. 23

Jan 23 raviFor Immediate Release

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020


On Thursday, Jan. 23, Ravi Ragbir, Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, will be attending his supervision appointment with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The agency continues to target Ravi for his activism, as part of a nationwide pattern and practice of targeting activist leaders. A federal court stay of removal prevents ICE from deporting him.

Supporters, including elected officials, will gather to speak out against ICE’s harassment of our communities and its targeting of our leaders. We will honor those leaders who have already been deported, and we will continue to fight to dismantle this system.

What: Solidarity Action for Ravi Ragbir at his ICE check-in including a rally with speakers and a silent Jericho March vigil Continue reading

Pack the Court for Ravi Oct. 30!

James_A._Byrne_United_States_CourthouseRavi has a case in the Third Circuit with oral argument set for Wednesday, October 30, 2019 in Philadelphia, at approximately 9am. The case is on appeal from the federal court in New Jersey, which denied Ravi post-conviction relief that would have given him the opportunity to reverse his deportation order.

Depending on the number of people who can come, the New Sanctuary Coalition and Ravi’s Defense Committee will coordinate a bus or carpools.

If you are interested in attending, please sign up here by Wednesday, October 23. Once you have signed up, you will receive information about traveling to Philadelphia to the hearing on October 30.

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez Fights for Prominent NY Immigrant Activist Ravi Ragbir

For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Alex Haurek
May 21, 2019 (202) 225-2361
Velázquez Fights for Prominent NY Immigrant Activist Ravi Ragbir

Introduces Private Bill Protecting NYC Community Advocate from Deportation

Washington, D.C.¬¬ – Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has taken legislative action to grant legal status to prominent local immigrant rights advocate, Ravi Ragbir. Last year, after being taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Ragbir was ordered released by the Courts, following an outcry from elected officials, advocacy groups and others. Most recently, the 2nd Circuit Court ruled that Ragbir cannot be deported for now because it is possible ICE tried to silence his advocacy by deporting him.

Velázquez’s bill would grant Ragbir legal permanent status and, should he be deported, provide him a legal right to return to the United States. While the 2nd Circuit ruled in Ravi’s favor, he remains in jeopardy should courts rule against him in the future.

“Ravi Ragbir has been a pillar in our community and ICE’s efforts to deport him are cruel and immoral,” said Velázquez. “Not only am I concerned for Ravi from a humanitarian perspective, but ICE’s repeated targeting of him raises serious 1st Amendment concerns and fit a broader pattern of the agency unfairly pursuing those who speak out against the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant policies.”

“I wish to thank Rep. Velázquez for introducing this bill because the immigration system is inhumane and we need to keep families together,” said Ragbir.

Separately, Velázquez has been a leader on immigration issues, authoring the American Promise Act, legislation that would prevent deportation of beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). That measure has been paired with other Democratic efforts to assist DREAMers and is expected to be considered in the House in the next several weeks.

Her legislation to assist Ragbir has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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