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

Legal Update on First Amendment Case

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LEGAL UPDATE:

Federal Appeals Court Grants Immigrant Rights Activist Ravi Ragbir Stay of Removal

On November 1, 2018,  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted Ravi Ragbir a stay of removal days after hearing oral argument in Ragbir v. Homan, a First Amendment challenge to retaliation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) against immigrant rights activists. The court has not yet issued a ruling on the First Amendment claim. The stay ensures that Mr. Ragbir will not be deported while the case is pending.

Mr. Ragbir, Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, was abruptly detained by ICE in January 2018 for deportation based on a decade-old deportation order. A federal court in New York ordered Mr. Ragbir’s release later that month, and a federal court in New Jersey ordered a stay of removal in a pending case challenging the conviction underlying Mr. Ragbir’s deportation order. ICE has continued, however, to pursue Mr. Ragbir’s deportation, requiring him to report “for removal” if no stay was in place.

In February 2018, Mr. Ragbir, joined by New Sanctuary Coalition, CASA, Detention Watch Network, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and New York Immigration Coalition, sued ICE, arguing that ICE’s actions against Mr. Ragbir and other immigrant activists violated the First Amendment. In May 2018, after a federal court denied the plaintiffs’ request for preliminary protections pending the First Amendment litigation for Mr. Ragbir, the plaintiffs appealed to the Second Circuit and sought a stay while  appeal is pending. The Second Circuit granted a stay on November 1, 2018.

For further information on Mr. Ragbir’s case, please visit: https://istandwithravi.org/category/legal-updates/

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Media Advisory: Federal Appeals Court Set to Hear Oral Argument on Ragbir v. Homan, a First Amendment Case Challenging ICE’s Targeting of Immigrant Rights Activists

325px-Thurgood_Marshall_United_States_Courthouse_WTM3_NYU_FC_0026For Immediate Release

***Media Advisory***

New York, NY: On Monday, October 29, 2018, at 10 a.m., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will hear oral argument in Ragbir v. Homan, a First Amendment case challenging the government’s retaliation against immigrant activists for speaking out against immigration policies. The plaintiffs of Ragbir v. Homan seek, among other things, a court order restraining the government from deporting and otherwise targeting immigrant activists based on their protected political speech.

The Government’s attempt to silence its critics is exemplified by its targeting of New York immigrant rights leader, Ravi Ragbir, who was surveilled, arrested, and flown to Florida for deportation, in defiance of the government’s own regulations, protocol and procedure. This targeting and retaliation of its critics is unconstitutional and has a chilling effect on all those who would speak out against the Government, both citizen and noncitizen alike.

Numerous immigrant rights groups, faith leaders, elected officials, and directly impacted individuals have submitted briefs in support of the plaintiffs in this case. Their briefing is available at https://istandwithravi.org/category/legal-updates/

Stanton Jones of Arnold & Porter will deliver oral argument in the case.  After oral argument, attendees and community members will gather outside of the courthouse for a press conference, featuring key figures in the lawsuit and in the community, including Mr. Ragbir, Mr. Jones and other members of Mr. Ragbir’s legal team, faith leaders, and The Hon. Tish James, Public Advocate for the City of New York.

What: A court hearing and press conference about whether the government can retaliate against people who speak out against immigration policies by targeting and deporting them.

When: Monday, October 29, 2018 at 10 a.m. (Ragbir v. Homan is the fourth case scheduled that morning)

Where: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 40 Foley Square, Room 1703, New York, NY. A press conference will follow immediately after argument in Foley Square.

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Legal Update: Ravi and Immigrants’ Rights Organizations File Reply Brief in First Amendment Lawsuit

On Friday, October 5, 2018, Ravi and immigrants’ rights organizations (the “Appellants”) filed their reply brief in Ragbir et al., v. Homan et al. The brief—which outlines the outrageous and unlawful targeting of Mr. Ragbir and other immigrant rights’ activists in retaliation for their vocal opposition to our broken immigration system—was filed in anticipation of oral argument which is schedule for Monday, October 29, 2018 at 10:00am before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Community members are encouraged to attend.

In addition, and preceding oral argument, the NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and Mr. Ragbir’s Defense Committee, will be hosting a First Amendment Teach-In entitled, Whose Speech? Our Speech! Immigrant Rights and the First Amendment, in anticipation of oral argument on Thursday, October 25, 2018 from 6pm – 8pm. The teach-in will be held at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York, a church founded as a temple of abolition in the 1850s, which served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Details and speaker bios forthcoming.

Link to Reply Brief: https://ravidefense.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/ragbir-ca2-merits-reply-10-05-18.pdf

Legal Update: Ravi and Immigrant Rights Organizations File Opening Appeal Brief

On Friday, August 31, 2018, Ravi and immigrant rights organizations (the “Appellants”) filed the opening brief in Ragbir et al., v. Homan et al., the First Amendment lawsuit now before the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In the brief, Appellants argue that the federal district court hearing the case wrongly denied their request for a preliminary injunction, which asked the federal court to restrain ICE from deporting Ravi in retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment rights.

The brief highlights the escalation of ICE’s retaliatory tactics–denying New Sanctuary Coalition’s access to public spaces, surveilling its headquarters, abruptly arresting and deporting one of its co-founders, and arresting and attempting to deport Ravi himself. It also highlights First Amendment retaliation against immigrant rights leaders throughout the country. Briefing in the case will end in early October and the parties anticipate oral argument in the case shortly thereafter.

First Amendment Case Update

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Photo by Erik McGregor

On August 14, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard oral argument in Ragbir v. Homan, the First Amendment case filed by Ravi and immigrant rights groups, CASA, Detention Watch Network, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, New York Immigration Coalition and New Sanctuary Coalition (the “plaintiffs”).

William Perdue of Arnold & Porter deftly argued before a packed courthouse that Ravi and the New Sanctuary Coalition should receive a stay of deportation. Perdue stated that there is strong evidence that the government retaliated against Ravi because he has been outspoken about the injustices of our current immigration system and he, the New Sanctuary Coalition, and the community have exposed ICE’s cruel and unjust practices.

Despite overwhelming evidence of retaliation, the government, represented by Steven Kochevar, emphasized that it should have the power to immediately arrest, detain and deport someone–like Ravi–with a final order of deportation. The government also could not promise the Court that it would not arrest, detain and deport Ravi if his current stay of deportation ends.

At the end of the hearing, over a hundred supporters of Ravi and the First Amendment held a press conference and rally in Foley Square, which culminated in a recitation of the First Amendment in English and Spanish, led by Ravi and renowned immigrant and reproductive rights activist, Alejandra Pablos.

THE COURT’S DECISION

On Tuesday, August 15, the Court issued an order in the case. The Court did not issue a decision on whether to grant Ravi a stay of deportation pending an appeal in the case. Instead, the Court asked that Ravi update it immediately if the stay of deportation from the federal court in New Jersey ends.

The Court also decided to expedite the plaintiffs’ appeal and stated that it will schedule oral argument in the case.

Please be on the lookout for an oral argument date in the coming months.

RAVI’S NEXT REPORT DATE

Currently, Ravi is scheduled to report to ICE for deportation on September 7, 2018. However, because there is a stay of deportation currently in place, that report date may be rescheduled. But we will always be prepared. Please look out for updates & information about actions on September 7th.

Thank you for all of your continued support as we stand up on behalf of the First Amendment rights of all our community members. We are truly grateful.