Leading immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir, an Indian-descent from Trinidad and Tobago, was arrested on Friday during a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and ordered immediate deportation, irking local community in New York. A large number of his supporters, including several Indian-Americans, gathered outside the Jacob Javits Federal Building where he was detained, reports news agency PTI.
As news spread he had been detained for deportation, the crowd swelled and there were massive protest marked by clashes with police.
Two city councilmen were among more than a dozen people arrested. Council members Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) and Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) were out in support of Ravi Ragbir during their arrest. Sixteen other people were taken into custody.
“They are retaliating against people who dare to say this is a bad system, and Ravi dared to say this is a bad system,” Ragbir’s wife Amy Gottlieb said.
“Ravi is an acclaimed community leader, a loving father, and a steadfast immigrant rights activist. His detention is entirely unwarranted and reflects the Trump administration’s predatory behavior in New York City and across the country. Ravi must be released immediately,” said Congressman Joe Crowley, a top Democratic leader.
Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, was detailed by ICE authorities during a routine check-in. Soon thereafter hundreds gathered outside the federal immigration building in downtown New York City to show solidarity with Ragbir. Ragbir arrived in the US from Trinidad and Tobago in 1991 on a visitor’s visa. He became a lawful permanent resident in 1994.
According to New York Immigration Coalition, Ragbir has lived with the 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 22 months in immigration detention before being released in February 2008.
During immigration detention and since his release, Ragbir has worked tirelessly to end the use of immigration detention, stop deportations, and secure relief for countless individuals. Previously, ICE officials had granted Ragbir prosecutorial discretion, including a stay of removal that was in effect until next week.
Known as a fixture in the immigrant rights movement, Ragbir was awarded the 2017 Immigrant Excellence Award by the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, given to those who show “deep commitment to the enhancement of their community.” ICE justified its decision and said he will remain in custody pending removal to Trinidad.
“Over the last 12 years, Mr. Ragbir’s immigration case has undergone extensive judicial review at multiple levels of the nation’s judicial system, including both immigration courts and federal appeals courts,” said Rachael Yong Yow, ICE public affairs officer.
In each review, the courts have uniformly held that Ragbir does not have a legal basis to remain in the US, ICE said. In an exercise of discretion, the agency had previously allowed him to remain free from custody with periodic check-ins, while his case was under court review, Rachaelsaid.
“He has since exhausted his petitions and appeals through the immigration courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the US District Court. He will remain in custody pending removal to Trinidad,” she said. “In addition to Mr. Ragbir’s immigration violations, he has a previous federal conviction for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, rendering him an aggravated felon. He was sentenced to 30 months incarceration, and ordered restitution in the amount of USD 350,001,” said ICE spokesperson.