A federal judge orders the release of an immigrant activist and sends a clear message to the community
District Judge Katherine B. Forrest compared the immigration practices of the Trump Administration to those of an authoritarian regime and requested the release of the activist Ravi Ragbir.
After 20 days in detention and thousands of demonstrations in his name, the immigrant activist of Trinidadian origin, Ravi Ragbir, has been released after a district judge considered his arrest "cruel and unnecessary", in violation of his right to due process.
Ragbir immigrated to the United States in 1994 from Trinidad with a work permit. After the mortgage company he worked for was investigated for fraud in 2001, Ravi was convicted of conspiracy to three years of house arrest and 30 months in federal prison. At the end of his sentence, he received an order of deportation without the right to a hearing.
Since then, the Trinidadian has fought for his case and has joined the cause of many like him, who are married to US citizens and whose children are born in the country.
But during his routine checkup with immigration offices on January 11, Ragbir was detained by ICE and transferred to a detention center in Goshen, New York.
District Judge Katherine B. Forrest then sentenced in his favor, ordering his immediate release and arguing that the proceedings violated the rights of the activist who "should have been allowed the freedom to say goodbye and to organize his affairs before being taken into custody," according to the Washington Post.
“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,” said Forrest, who read her seven-page opinion aloud in court.
“We are not that country,” she continued, “and woe be the day that we become that country under a fiction that laws allow it.”
After his release, Ragbir will continue to fight against his deportation, according to his lawyer Alina Das.
For its part, ICE issued a statement to the Associated Press saying 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 the ‘treatment we associate with regimes that we revile as unjust'". The agency also said it is "actively exploring its appellate options."
Once released, Ragbir, who chairs the New Sanctuary Coalition, decided to go to the place where he was arrested on January 11 to deliver a message against those trying to deport him and others.
"There is a psychological warfare out there and they want us to be weak,” he said on the outskirts of the 26th Federal Plaza. "They want us to cave so our spirits are broken.”
Hand in hand with several religious representatives who have joined the mission of the New Sanctuary, Ragbir and 50 other demonstrators joined in the so-called "Jericho Walk" outside the building, according to the NY Daily News. The demonstration emulated the march of the Israelis around the city of Jericho as the Bible recounts.
Despite his release, this activist could face deportation again next week, having received a federal order to report for deportation on February 10. His fighting partner, Haitian Jean Montrevil (co-founder of the Coalition), was also arrested a week earlier and deported to Port-au-Prince after living in the country for 30 years.