Dozens of Ravi Ragbir’s supporters packed a federal court of appeals room in Manhattan on Tuesday as the Trinidadian immigrant activist appealed his deportation order.
Attorney William Perdue contended that ICE detained and attempted to deport Ragbir, the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, in January because of his outspoken activism against the Trump administration’s immigration policies. He asked the three-judge panel to grant a stay of deportation while attorneys argue that his First Amendment rights were violated.
“This is a government agency that is using its powers to shut down any opposition to its policy,” Perdue argued.
Ragbir came to the United States in 1991 and obtained his green card three years later. In 2006, a judge ordered his deportation over a 2001 wire fraud conviction, but he was allowed to stay in the country while he fought that decision in court.
The federal government ordered that he have regular visits with immigration officers, and during a routine visit on Jan. 11, he was arrested. A judge ordered his release on Jan. 29, and he then won a stay of deportation to allow for his suit.
Steven Kochevar, the attorney for the federal government, said Ragbir’s arrest and deportation order had nothing to do with his activism.
“He has exhausted a number of legal challenges in court,” he said.
The judges noted Ragbir’s stay of deportation in New Jersey, but Perdue argued that an additional stay would ensure that his client won’t be immediately taken into custody. Kochevar could not guarantee that ICE wouldn’t immediately arrest and deport Ragbir if the stay was removed.
The judges will make their decision on the appeal at a later date. Ragbir and his supporters rallied outside the court after the hearing and repeatedly recited the First Amendment.
He thanked the crowd for coming to court and said that the trial will affect all Americans who want to express their opinions freely.
“I know I have to speak the truth. They need to know the humanity of what happened,” he said.