Immigration Activist Sues Govt, Gets Temporary Stay on Deportation in U.S.

A rally against orders for Ravi Ragbir's deportation was held on Feb.10 in New York.


With just hours to go for his scheduled deportation, United States-based immigration rights activist Ravi Ragbir was granted a temporary stay on Feb. 8 until follow-up ruling expected around mid-March. This was after the Indian-origin activist sued the federal government on First Amendment grounds.

The 53-year-old Brooklyn-based activist still had to check in with immigration officials at a federal office in Lower Manhattan on Feb.10. Hundreds of people came in to form a rally at the spot, protesting against Ragbir’s deportation order. The rally was staged by New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, an organization of 150 faith-based, pro-immigrant groups.

“Like so many people who are living in this country under the threat of deportation, I know how important it is to raise our voices against the injustices in the system,” Ragbir said in a statement. “This lawsuit is not just about me, it is about all of the members of our community who are speaking out in our struggle for immigrant rights.”

Protesters hailed the decision to grant Ragbir a temporary stay and called on legislature to preserve the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, the Los Angeles Times reported. Dozens of police officers were present during the protest, while a small group of counter-protesters carried placards thanking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The ruling of temporary stay was made public on Feb.9, NY Daily News reported. The 44-page suit filed by Ragbir and several groups, including Detention Watch Network and New York Immigration Coalition, accuses the federal government and ICE officials of “selectively enforcing the immigration laws against immigration-rights activists on the basis of their protected speech.”

The suit says: “These activists have been surveilled, intimidated, harassed and detained, their homes raided, many have been plucked off the street in broad daylight, and some have even been deported.” It adds: “The government cannot silence critics of its immigration laws and policies by deporting them.”

The ICE maintained that it is not targeting Ragbir for his politics. Matthew Albence, the head of ICE’s enforcement and removal division, said: “ ICE does not target unlawfully present aliens for arrest based on advocacy positions they hold or in retaliation for critical comments they make.ICE focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. We will continue to target criminal aliens whenever and however they come to our attention.”

Ragbir was arrested on Jan.11 during a routine check-up by immigration officials. A federal judge ordered his release Jan. 29, expressing concerns over violations of Ragbir’s right to due process.

The activist has been a U.S. resident for last 27 years, and has an American citizen wife and daughter. He is the executive director of New York City’s New Sanctuary Coalition, an advocacy group for immigrant rights.

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