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