PRESS RELEASE: Immigrant Rights Leader Ravi Ragbir Receives Three-Year Deferred Action After Reaching Settlement on First Amendment Suit Challenging ICE Retaliation

For Immediate Release: February 24, 2022

Press Release: Immigrant Rights Leader Ravi Ragbir Receives Three-Year Deferred Action After Reaching Settlement on First Amendment Suit Challenging ICE Retaliation

February 24, 2022 — Three years after prominent activist Ravi Ragbir and immigrant rights organizations 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 filed suit to challenge the targeting of immigrant rights activists by federal immigration officials, the parties have settled the suit and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) has agreed to grant Mr. Ragbir three years of deferred action in the United States. 

“For all of these years my family, friends, and community were worried that I would be targeted by ICE because of my outspokenness. They were right—my public challenges to the system led them to retaliate against me,” said Mr. Ragbir. “This victory is a testimony to the power of the community working together to stand up against ICE and an oppressive policy, to support human rights and dignity for all. I am celebrating this step towards victory, but knowing that this is not the end, and that we must continue in the struggle to end deportation. I want to recognize my privilege of having the smartest and best attorneys representing me, Stanton Jones and William Perdue from the firm Arnold and Porter and Alina Das and Jessica Rofé and the students from the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic.”

This period of deferred action also gives Mr. Ragbir a chance to pursue other legal remedies in order to gain permanent immigration relief in the United States.

“Ravi and I are deeply grateful to our brilliant legal team, our loving families and friends, and to everyone in our community who have stood with us during these years of struggle and who made it possible for us to have this moment to celebrate,” said Amy Gottlieb, wife of Mr. Ragbir and Associate Regional Director of American Friends Service Committee. “Three years to breathe free as we work toward a permanent solution is a wonderful holiday gift.”

“I am very pleased that after a long struggle Ravi has finally been granted deferred action,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “I have long advocated on behalf of Ravi, he is a passionate leader and immigration activist. Today’s settlement affirms that ICE cannot target someone for deportation simply for speaking out and exercising their 1st Amendment protected rights.”

The lawsuit was supported by numerous faith leaders, immigrant rights organizations, elected officials, activists, and others who spoke out on behalf of protecting immigrants’ First Amendment rights. 

“Finally, some good news after more than a year of hardship and tragedy,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition. “Ravi Ragbir is one of our movement’s most outspoken critics of ICE and has paid the consequences of that outspokenness when he was detained and threatened with deportation to a country that he hadn’t lived in for years. Today, Ravi and his family will finally be able to breathe a sigh of temporary relief thanks to the government’s agreement to allow him three years of deferred action. This isn’t the permanent legal status that we hoped for him and the millions of others just like Ravi, who have been struggling to attain a pathway to citizenship. But it’s something. In the meantime, the NYIC will continue to fight for permanent legal protections for the hundreds of thousands of immigrant New Yorkers who continue to live in the shadows while dreaming and hoping for this country to recognize them as the Americans they already are.”

“Ravi has been a strong advocate and leader in the fight to have a truly just immigration system,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. “I’m proud to have supported and advocated for Ravi during this difficult journey. It has been a long road and I’m grateful to all who protested and showed up for Ravi throughout the years. These three years of deferred action gives everyone involved a chance to breathe, and while we celebrate this huge victory, we must remember that this is not the end of the fight.”

In February 2018, Mr. Ragbir and immigrant rights organizations filed suit against federal immigration agencies because of the targeting that Mr. Ragbir experienced as a result of his outspoken activism against U.S. immigration policies. On January 11, 2018, he was abruptly detained by ICE after years of routine check-ins. ICE’s decision to detain Mr. Ragbir came at the heels of its similarly abrupt arrest and detention of Jean Montrevil, a co-founder of New Sanctuary Coalition, that same month. ICE deported Mr. Montrevil and attempted to do the same to Mr. Ragbir before a federal court ordered his release. Through their actions, ICE officials made clear their resentment of Mr. Ragbir’s and Mr. Montrevil’s activism and critique of the numerous flaws of the U.S. immigration system. 

“ICE targeted Ravi for speaking out against the cruel injustices of our immigration system, thereby putting him into a yearslong fight to remain with his family and community. While we are grateful that Ravi will be able to live without fear of deportation for 3 years, we are also committed to finding a permanent solution to his case and all others like him. As we work to make our vision of a humane and compassionate immigration system a reality, it is clear that we need bold and courageous allies like Ravi by our side,” said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of the National Immigration Project.

“Ravi’s story is a testament to the unimaginable courage it requires to speak out against injustice. And this three-year reprieve is a testament to the power of community to end the harms of retaliation. We are grateful for this respite. But so long as Ravi, and countless others, remain in legal limbo, we know they are not truly safe,” said Jessica Rofé of the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic and one of Ravi Ragbir’s lawyers. “We hope the next three years will lead to permanent immigration relief for Ravi and others, whose advocacy and activism reflect the bedrock of American democratic principles.”

Even after Mr. Ragbir’s release from detention in January 2018, ICE continued to pursue Mr. Ragbir’s deportation, prompting 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 to join Mr. Ragbir in filing suit (Ragbir v. Homan) to challenge the targeting of immigrant rights activists by federal immigration officials. The suit alleged that the specific actions against Mr. Ragbir, along with similar retaliatory actions against activists across the country, were part of a pattern and practice of unlawful targeting in violation of the First Amendment. 

The district court denied Mr. Ragbir’s motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the claims challenging his deportation under the First Amendment. On appeal, the Second Circuit vacated that decision, concluding that the alleged retaliatory deportation by ICE was sufficiently “outrageous” to violate the First Amendment, and that the Constitution requires judicial review of these claims. However, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the Second Circuit on jurisdictional grounds, questioning whether federal courts have jurisdiction to hear such First Amendment claims. The case was eventually sent back to the Southern District of New York to litigate these jurisdictional issues before the parties officially settled the case. 

“This is a victory not just for Ravi, but for immigrants, for their communities, and for the First Amendment,” said William Perdue of Arnold & Porter.  “Ravi has had the courage to fight for a fair and humane immigration system, and his case stands as a warning to ICE and public officials of all kinds that they cannot abuse their powers by retaliating against those who speak out against them.  Ravi’s relentless advocacy is an inspiration, and his settlement reaffirms that if the First Amendment means anything, it means being free to criticize the government without fear of reprisal.”

“Detention Watch Network is thrilled to hear that long time member, Ravi Ragbir, has been granted deferred action and will have a respite from years of facing deportation including some in immigration detention and on an electronic monitor,” said Silky Shah, Executive Director of the Detention Watch Network. “Ravi is a tireless and selfless defender of freedom not just for himself, but for all immigrants. Congratulations to Ravi and the team that supported him on this important movement victory!”

“For years, communities of faith around the country have been praying for this relief. Why? Because we need Ravi. Because Ravi leads us in doing God’s work. I expect this to be but the first step in our collective gratitude and recognition for Ravi’s crucial work. And so we continue,” shared Reverend Kaji Dousa, Senior Minister and C.E.O. of Park Avenue Christian Church.
“Ravi has fearlessly spoken out against the injustice of detention and deportation. He should never have been targeted for his activism. We are thrilled that he has been granted deferred action. We need his voice in the movement now more than ever,” said Alina Das of the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic and one of Ravi Ragbir’s lawyers.