Ragbir says he plans to use the next three years to continue advocating on behalf of undocumented immigrants.
A New York City immigration activist has settled his lawsuit with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, winning a three-year reprieve from deportation.
According to The Intercept¸ activist Ravi Ragbir said that he been targeted for deportation because of his political speech.
In his complaint, Ragbir alleged that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had violated his First Amendment freedoms of speech.
Ragbir, notes The Intercept, was the executive director of the New York Sanctuary Coalition of New York City in 2018. While working with the Coalition, Ragbir helped undocumented New York residents fight deportation; he also advocated against some of I.C.E.’s most stringent and controversial policies and positions.
Speaking to The Intercept, Ragbir said his three-year reprieve is a victory for immigrants across the country.
“What we did is a victory on many levels, because immigrants were being told we didn’t have any rights, especially First Amendment rights,” he said. “We were able to take this up and prove this strategy to people who are now using the First Amendment as a way to challenge what is happening to them and the retaliation they have experienced.”
Ragbir, adds The Intercept, legally immigrated to the United States from Trinidad.
However, he was later indicted and found guilty of wire fraud—a criminal conviction that could have led to him being deported.
After he was released from prison, Ragbir began advocating on behalf of undocumented immigrants—despite being threatened with deportation himself.
Soon after President Donald Trump took office, his administration removed an Obama-era edict instructing I.C.E. officials to prioritize the removal of violent criminals, terrorists, and other individuals deemed a threat to public safety.
With I.C.E. operating under new, conservative leadership, immigration enforcement officials began rounding up other activists, including New York Sanctuary Coalition leader Jean Montrevil in January 2018.
Shortly after Montrevil’s arrest, Ragbir and other Coalition members began to suspect that their New York City headquarters was under surveillance.
Days later, Ragbir was detained by I.C.E. officers while attending a mandatory check-in at an agency headquarters in New York; while his supporters tried to stop Ragbir’s arrest, he was transported to a local airport and flown to Florida to await removal.
After battling the courts for years—winning some victories, and having others vacated—he decided to settle with I.C.E. rather than risk continued uncertainty.
Despite an uncertain outcome, Ragbir’s attorneys believe his resistance—along with mixed signals from the judiciary—will cause immigration officials to think twice before arresting immigration activists.
“Ravi’s case stands as a warning to I.C.E. and other public officials that they cannot abuse their powers by retaliating against those who speak out against them, and that if they do there are those who will fight back,” said William Perdue, one of Ragbir’s lawyers.
Ragbir, meanwhile, told The Intercept that he plans to use his three-year reprieve to continue advocating on behalf of undocumented immigrants; he also hopes to find a way to settle in the United States permanently.