Indian-Origin Rights Activist in U.S. Gets Temporary Reprieve from Deportation

A U.S. judge ordered the release of immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir and granted him temporary reprieve from deportation to Trinidad and Tobago.


Immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir was granted a temporary reprieve from deportation to his native Trinidad and Tobago after a U.S. judge ordered his release on Jan.29.

Manhattan Federal Court Judge Katherine Forrest, who compared the current immigration practices of the administration to that of an authoritarian regime, wrote in a seven-page decision that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents violated Ragbir’s rights to due process.

“The court finds that when this country allowed (Ragbir) to become a part of our community fabric, allowed him to build a life with and among us and to enjoy the liberties and freedom that come with that, it committed itself to allowance of an orderly departure when the time came, and it committed itself to avoidance of unnecessary cruelty when the time came,” Forrest wrote in the decision, New York Daily News reported.

“By denying (Ragbir) these rights, the government has acted wrongly,” Forrest added.

Forrest comes down heavily on the administration, saying: “It ought not to be — and it has never before been — that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust, regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken without notice from streets, home, and work and sent away. We are not that country and woe be the day that we become that country under a fiction that laws allow it.”

She also wrote that Ragbir was “entitled to the freedom to say goodbye,” indicating that the activist still faces eventual deportation. The decision was met with an applause in the courtroom. Ragbir will continue to fight against his deportation, his attorney Alina Das told the Washington Post.

In response to Forrest’s strongly worded judgment, ICE said in a statement to Associated Press that it was “concerned with the tone of the district court’s decision, which equates the difficult work ICE professionals do every day to enforce our immigration laws with ‘treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust’.”

Ragbir has lived with the threat of deportation for over 16 years due to a conviction for wire fraud, according to the New York Immigration Coalition.

The 43-year-old Indian-origin activist was arrested on Jan. 12 during a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and was ordered immediate deportation. This move did not go down well with the local community in New York as Ragbir is a prominent figure in the area, who had a meeting with former president Barack Obama’s transition team to discuss immigration policy, according to his attorneys. He is the director of the immigrant advocacy group New Sanctuary Coalition in New York, a collection of 150 faith-based organizations.

Ragbir was placed into removal proceedings in 2006. He spent 22 months in immigration detention until his release in February 2008. Ever since his release, Ragbir has worked to end the use of immigration detention, stop deportations, and secure relief for people. His stay in the United States was valid until Jan. 19, but ICE officials took him into custody on Jan. 11 during his regular check-in with the immigration authorities.

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.”

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