Ravi Ragbir, the immigrant rights leader whose detention earlier this month sparked heated protests, was released from custody Monday, following a federal court justice ruling.
Ragbir was detained on Jan. 11 after reporting for a check-in at ICE’s Manhattan offices. He was sent to a Miami detention center that day, his attorney Alina Das said.
On Jan. 17, ICE told Das he would be returned to the New York area, and he has remained in an Orange County facility since.
“There is, and ought to be in this great country, the freedom to say goodbye,” U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Forrest wrote in her decision, adding: “It ought not to be . . . 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 law allows it.”
Forrest wrote that Ragbir is entitled to an “orderly departure.”
Ragbir, the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, first came to the United States in 1991 from Trinidad and obtained a green card in 1994.
But in 2006, a judge ordered him deported because of a 2001 wire fraud conviction, according to a group of community members and advocates who have fought for him to stay in the country. His attorneys have been arguing to overturn that conviction.
Ragbir’s wife Amy Gottlieb and his legal team went to the detention center in Orange County on Monday to see him, according to a spokesman for his defense committee.
“I think we all know that it’s the community support for Mr. Ragbir that ultimately is going to ensure that he remains at home,” Das said to reporters following the court hearing. “And it’s our hope that that community support will be heard by ICE.”
Das said Ragbir “deserves a day in court on all of the legal grounds that he’s been pursuing; and more fundamentally than that, he deserves to continue the incredible work he’s done to make this a safer and more just community for everyone living in New York City and in this country who wants to see immigration reform happen.”
Gottlieb, his wife, said in a statement that the judge’s decision “restores my faith in the power of our institutions to protect the rights of people facing such a cruel and inhumane system.”
Das said she is still pursuing a longer stay of deportation while Ragbir continues to challenge the wire fraud conviction.
An ICE spokesman called Ragbir an “aggravated felon” in an emailed statement.
“The agency is deeply disturbed by the harmful personal attacks some Congress members have leveled against career law enforcement personnel, whose sworn duty is enforcing laws enacted by Congress itself,” the spokesman wrote. “The agency is similarly 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,’ and is actively exploring its appellate options.”
Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Ydanis Rodriguez, who were both arrested during the protests that erupted on the day of Ragbir’s arrest, said in a joint statement that his release was a “temporary victory.”
“Let us be clear: Ravi’s situation is still dire,” they wrote. “We stand with Ravi, and we stand in opposition to the tactics employed by Trump and ICE across our state and our nation.”