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US judge orders release of immigration activist Ravi Ragbir

Last updated on: January 30, 2018 16:39 IST

A United States judge has ordered immediate release of prominent Indian-descent immigration activist Ravi Ragbir and granted him a temporary reprieve from deportation to his native Trinidad and Tobago, saying his detention was 'unnecessarily' and 'cruel'.

Ragbir, 43, was arrested on January 12 during a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and ordered immediate deportation, irking local community in New York.


In a seven-page decision, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Katherine Forrest on Monday said US Immigration and Customs Enforcement violated Ragbir’s rights by denying him due process and 'the freedom to say goodbye'.

Forrest said that Ragbir’s sudden and 'unnecessary detention' after living in the US 'without incident, reporting as required to immigration authorities and building a home, a family, and a community was wrong'.

"Taking such a man, and there are many such men and women like him, and subjecting him to what is rightfully understood as no different or better than penal detention is certainly cruel," Forrest in her decision.

"We as a country need and must not act so. The Constitution commands better."

The judge said that Ragbir should have been given time to organize his affairs before being taken into custody.

"There is, and ought to be in this country, the freedom to say goodbye. That is, freedom to hug one’s spouse and children, the freedom to organise the myriad of human affairs that collect over time."

"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 associated with regimes we revile as unjust, regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken away without notice from streets, home, and work. And sent away,” Forrest said amidst cheers from the supporters of Ragbir who had gathered at the courthouse.

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, a Brooklyn resident and executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, has been under the threat of deportation for nearly a decade following a conviction for wire fraud in 2001.

He was placed into removal proceedings in 2006 and spent twenty-two months in immigration detention before being released in February 2008.

During immigration detention and since his release, Ragbir has devoted his life to the lives of immigrants, working tirelessly to end the use of immigration detention, stop deportations and secure relief for countless individuals.

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'.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency called Ragbir 'an aggravated felon' in reference to his wire fraud conviction and said it was 'actively exploring' an appeal against the ruling.

Photograph: Ravi Ragbir/Facebook

Lalit K Jha
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