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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Press Release: Federal Appeals Court Holds that The First Amendment Protects Immigrant Rights Activists from ICE Retaliation

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New York, NY —  A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of immigrant-rights activist Ravi Ragbir, concluding that the First Amendment prohibits the government from targeting immigration activists for deportation based on their political speech. “To allow this retaliatory conduct to proceed would broadly chill protected speech, among not only activists subject to final orders of deportation but also those citizens and other residents who would fear retaliation against others,” the decision states. It goes on to explain:

Ragbir’s speech implicates the apex of protection under the First Amendment. His advocacy for reform of immigration policies and practices is at the heart of current political debate among American citizens and other residents. Thus, Ragbir’s speech on a matter of “public concern” is at “the heart of . . . First Amendment[] protection,” and “occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values.’”  Because Ragbir’s speech concerns “political change,” it is also “core political speech” and thus “trenches upon an area in which the importance of First Amendment protections is at its zenith.” Indeed, his “speech critical of the exercise of the State’s power lies at the very center of the First Amendment.”  (citations omitted).

The court of appeals concluded: “Ragbir’s speech implicates the highest protection of the First Amendment,” and “he has adduced plausible — indeed, strong — evidence that officials responsible for the decision to deport him did so based on their disfavor of Ragbir’s speech (and its prominence.”  

The decision further held that a federal statute stripping courts of their power to hear these First Amendment claims is itself unconstitutional. The court of appeals sent the case back to the district court to consider the case in light of its conclusions, directing the district court to stay Mr. Ragbir’s deportation as it considers the next steps in the case. Continue reading

Press Release: Ravi Ragbir Emerges from ICE Check In Surrounded by Community

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Photo by Erik McGregor (click on image for more photos)

Photo by Erik McGregor (click image for more photos)

For Immediate Release: Monday, January 28, 2019

RAVI RAGBIR EMERGES FROM ICE CHECK-IN SURROUNDED BY COMMUNITY

New York, NY: Prominent immigrant rights activist, Ravi Ragbir, reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a check-in today, one year after a federal court ordered ICE to release Mr. Ragbir under similar circumstances. Community members, elected officials, and faith leaders gathered outside ICE headquarters at 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan to show solidarity with Mr. Ragbir and others like him who are under threat of imminent detention and deportation. Mr. Ragbir is the Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, a faith-based organization devoted to immigrant rights. He is scheduled to report to ICE again in six months.

New Sanctuary Coalition Co-Chair Rev. Kaji Dousa, Senior Pastor of Park Avenue Christian Church, stated, “We stand with Ravi, who is beloved by all of us who have the privilege of working alongside him to challenge the inhumanity of our current immigration system. Ravi’s voice is so critical at a time when the administration is using immigrant lives as pawns in its political negotiations.”

“I am honored to have been able to bear witness and share the experience with Ravi during his check-in today,” stated U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, who accompanied Ravi today, and last week was assigned to the House Homeland Security Committee. “Every elected official, his wife, Amy, and faith leaders should have a right to be by Ravi’s side during this trying time. And every immigrant checking-in in this space has that right as well. Our goal is to make sure that Ravi is victorious, his civil liberties are not obstructed, and there is no retribution from ICE employees.”

Mr. Ragbir stated, “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 has lived under threat of deportation for nearly a decade, as the result of a 16-year old conviction for wire fraud. He was placed into removal proceedings in 2006 and spent twenty-two months in immigration detention before being released in February 2008. During immigration detention and since his release, Ragbir has devoted his life to the lives of immigrants, working tirelessly to end the use of immigration detention, stop deportations, and secure relief for countless individuals. 

Last year, Mr. Ragbir was abruptly detained by immigration agents for deportation. However, a New York federal court ordered Mr. Ragbir’s release, finding his detention unconstitutional. Following his release, 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. Mr. Ragbir’s latest check-in comes at the heels of the federal government’s prosecution of several humanitarian aid workers from No More Deaths earlier this month, and continuing actions against immigrant rights activists across the country.

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. 

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More photos from today’s action. 

Jan. 28: Stand with Ravi! Accompany Ravi to His Report Date with ICE

Stand with Ravi as he reports for a check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As many of you know, Ravi has been scheduled to report to ICE at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan on Jan. 28, 2019, for deportation. Ravi cannot be deported because he continues to have stays of removal from the Federal District Court of New Jersey and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. But instead of cancelling this report date, as ICE has done in the past, ICE has changed it from a deportation date into a “check in.”

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Even though the federal government is shut down, ICE aggressively targets our community members, and is spending its resources on requiring Ravi and countless others to check in. But we know the power of community. In the spirit of New Sanctuary’s accompaniment program, we ask that you all join us in accompanying Ravi and joining us in a Jericho Walk, starting at 9:30am.

Invite others with this Facebook listing:

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One Year Later: Ravi is home but waiting is agony

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By Amy Gottlieb, American Friends Service Committee

Jan. 11, 2019

Exactly a year ago, I sat in a cold conference room as a stone-faced senior official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told my husband Ravi Ragbir that he was being detained. Ravi’s lawyer and I desperately tried to convince the officer not to detain Ravi – there were still legal avenues we were pursuing to prevent his deportation. But the officer just became more aggressive, and Ravi was handcuffed and escorted out.

Continue reading

Vigil to Mark One-Year Anniversary of Unlawful ICE Arrest of Immigrant Rights Leader Ravi Ragbir

light-brigadeFor Immediate Release

Friday, January 11, 2019

***PRESS ADVISORY***

One year ago, on January 11, 2018, Ravi Ragbir was unlawfully detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in retaliation for speaking out against our unjust immigration system. Since then, Ravi and his supporters have continued to stand up against the current administration’s escalating attacks against immigrant communities.

At a vigil and “Jericho Walk” demonstration around the Varick Street Immigration Court on Friday night, local activists and families facing deportation will pay tribute to all those who have suffered at the hands of our immigration enforcement system in the past year, including fellow New Sanctuary Coalition c-founder, Jean Montrevil.

What: Vigil and Jericho Walk (silent procession) around the ICE facility

Where: 201 Varick Street, Lower Manhattan

When: Friday, January 11. Start, 6:00 – Vigil, 6:15 – Speakers, 6:45 – Prayer, 7:00 – Jericho Walk around Varick Immigration Court

Speakers:

  • Ravi Ragbir, New Sanctuary Coalition
  • Rev. Donna Schaper, Judson Memorial Church
  • Reverend Kaji Dousa, Park Avenue Christian Church

Audio: Brief statements by speakers, prayers, chanting, etc.

Visuals: Supporters with posters and candles outside immigration court building

Sponsors: Ravi Ragbir’s Defense Committee, New Sanctuary Coalition, Judson Memorial Church, Park Avenue Christian Church

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