New York, NY – A federal court judge today ordered the immediate release of nationally recognized immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir. Mr. Ragbir, Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, was detained on January 11, 2018, at a routine ICE check-in in New York City.
Judge Katherine B. Forrest, who presided over the case, held that ICE violated Mr. Ragbir’s due process rights by his “abrupt and by all counts unnecessary detention.” “Taking such a man, and there are many such men and women like him, and subjecting him to what is rightfully understood as no different or better than penal detention is certainly cruel,” wrote Judge Forrest. “We as a country need and must not act so. The Constitution commands better.”
The New York University School of Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic represents Mr. Ragbir in his lawsuit. Brittany Castle and Jeremy “Cody” Cutting, who presented the case on behalf of Mr. Ragbir with clinic supervisors Alina Das and Jessica Rofé at today’s hearing, stated, “Thousands of our community members live and work in this country with removal orders just like Mr. Ragbir. We are pleased that Judge Forrest recognizes that this slip of paper erases neither their constitutional rights nor their humanity.”
Mr. Ragbir, who received his greencard in 1994, was previously detained by ICE for nearly two years when he was placed in removal proceedings in 2006 for an old wire fraud conviction. He was released from immigration detention in 2008 when ICE determined that he was not a flight risk or danger to the community. Following his release, Mr. Ragbir became a community activist and currently leads a coalition of over 150 faith based groups that advocate for immigrant rights.
“The judge’s decision restores my faith in the power of our institutions to protect the rights of people facing such a cruel and inhumane system,” said Amy Gottlieb, wife of Mr. Ragbir and an immigrant rights advocate with American Friends Service Committee. “I am so thrilled that Ravi will be home with me, as he always should have been. Now the fight is to make sure Ravi can remain here with his family and continue his work to support immigrant rights in the United States.”
In the days since Mr. Ragbir’s detention, a growing number of community organizations and elected officials have questioned ICE’s motives in targeting Mr. Ragbir. Last week, nearly 30 Congressional representatives and nearly 1,800 community organizations and private individuals sent letters to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen condemning the targeting or Mr. Ragbir and other immigrant activists by ICE.
The spectre of political motivations was felt in the courtroom as the parties debated why ICE had taken Mr. Ragbir into custody after previously recognizing his contributions to the community and his pending legal challenges to his removal for so many years. In a statement following the hearing, Das explained, “Detention can never be used to silence dissent. Mr. Ragbir is a husband, father, and community leader who has worked tirelessly to advocate for justice in our immigration system. There was simply no legitimate basis to detain him.”
Mr. Ragbir has a challenge to his underlying conviction pending in federal court in New Jersey and a motion to reopen his removal proceedings before the Board of Immigration Appeals, neither of which have yet been adjudicated. “We have been pursuing justice for fundamental errors in Mr. Ragbir’s criminal and immigration proceedings for several years,” said Rofé. “We will continue to fight for his day in court on these claims as the community calls for an end to the pursuit of Mr. Ragbir’s deportation and the targeting of other activists.”
Mr. Ragir’s legal team and wife traveled to the facility after the hearing and anticipate that he will be released later today.
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