New Complaint Describes Widespread Practice of Retaliation Against Immigrant Activists
July 19, 2021 — The Immigrant Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law (“NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic) and the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic (“Cornell First Amendment Clinic”) filed a joint complaint with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (OCRCL) alleging a widespread pattern of retaliation by federal immigration officials against immigrant activists and others who publicly criticize U.S. immigration policy. The complaint urges immediate action to protect those who have already been targeted for their activism and policy changes to ensure such retaliation does not occur in the future.
“Far too many immigrants live in fear that if they speak up for their rights, they will be targeted for arrest and deportation,” says Alina Das, Professor of Clinical Law and Co-Director of the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic. “So long as federal immigration officials are free to target immigrants with impunity, the immigrant rights movement is in peril.”
The NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic documented more than one thousand instances of First Amendment retaliation in recent years, including the cases of prominent activists Claudio Rojas, Jean Montrevil, and Ravi Ragbir. Federal immigration officials in Miami detained and deported Mr. Rojas to Argentina in 2019 after a documentary film, The Infiltrators, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, featuring his activism. Federal immigraiton officials in New York detained Mr. Montrevil and Mr. Ragbir in 2018 after they spoke critically of the agency as part of the sanctuary movement, deporting Mr. Montrevil to Haiti shortly thereafter. DHS continues to pursue Mr. Ragbir’s deportation to Trinidad and Tobago. The complaint asks DHS to exercise its discretion to protect these individuals and others from the harm of First Amendment retaliation, and seeks broader policy changes.
“The First Amendment has always been the foundation of progress and the cornerstone of democracy in the United States,” says Jared Carter, Associate Director of the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic. “The Biden Administration must end policies that violate the basic First Amendment principle that no person should be subject to government retaliation for exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech or freedom of assembly.”