FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 7, 2018
New York, NY — In response to the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s recent targeting of immigrant activists for deportation, civic, political, and religious institutions, together with legal scholars, file legal briefs in Ragbir v. Homan to condemn the government’s violation of the First Amendment.
These amicus curiae (“friend of court”) briefs support plaintiffs Ravi Ragbir, the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, CASA, Detention Watch Network, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and the New York Immigration Coalition. The lawsuit seeks, among other forms of relief, a preliminary and permanent injunction restraining the government from taking further action to effectuate a deportation order against Mr. Ragbir, while also seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction restraining the government from selectively enforcing immigration laws against individuals based on protected political speech.
The law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of over 130 religious leaders and 4 religious institutions and membership organizations; Covington & Burling LLP filed on behalf of 50 local, state and federal elected officials; and Make the Road NY and the National Immigration Law Center filed on behalf of 21 organizations from across the United States dedicated to organizing communities struggling with burdens imposed by immigration laws and policies. An amicus brief filed by the Rutgers Law School International Human Rights Clinic on behalf of law scholars and human rights advocates is forthcoming.
While varying in themes, each amici views protecting First Amendment rights and halting retaliatory enforcement that aims to prosecute, punish, and chill political speech by federal immigration officials as critical to American democracy. The actions taken by ICE “are contrary to any notions of fair play and equal treatment, and are meant only to intimidate and silence political opposition.” As such, Amici seek the protection of the judiciary to protect core constitutional rights.
“When ICE retaliated against Ravi, they sent a message to all immigrant activists: if you speak out, we’ll come for you” said Javier Valdes, Co-Executive Director at Make the Road New York. “This disturbing trend of ICE retaliation is being felt across the country and is silencing the voices of those most critical to the immigration debate, those who have lived the injustices of the immigration system. It is an abomination to the First Amendment that our community leaders may be detained and exiled for speaking out against the government’s policies.”
“This is a man who is a community leader and poses no threat to anyone. He advocates for legal reform in the most peaceful and constructive manner, and is well within his rights to do so,” said Professor Penny Venetis, Director of the Rutgers Law School International Human Rights Clinic. “International law protects immigrants in the United States from being retaliated against because of their political speech.”
Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck of Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ, one of the amici who signed on to the brief on behalf of religious leaders, stated, “I am proud to stand with Ravi Ragbir and with all who insist that America live up to its moral commitments and ethos as a nation of immigrants. As a rabbi, I am constantly cognizant that the Torah commands us no less than 36 times to love the stranger, having ourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.”
“Retaliatory actions like these undermine our democracy,” stated Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, who signed on to the brief on behalf of New York’s elected officials. “I stand with Ravi and many other immigrant rights leaders and organizations to urgently request that our courts halt federal immigration officials’ attempts to drive our immigrant community members underground and silence one side of a crucial debate around immigration reform,” she added. “I commend our state and local allies, including State Senator Gustavo Rivera, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, and others who, in addition to signing themselves, encouraged their colleagues to join this important effort.”
The hearing on the motion for a preliminary and permanent injunction has been postponed. For updates on the First Amendment lawsuit and more on Ravi’s case, visit https://istandwithravi.org