Ravi Ragbir, immigrant rights leader, to be brought back to New York area

Supporters of immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir rally on his behalf on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018.
Supporters of immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir rally on his behalf on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Ravi Ragbir — an immigrant rights leader whose detention last week sparked heated protests — will be brought back to the New York area after being transferred to Miami the day of his arrest, his attorney said.

Ragbir, the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, was detained on Jan. 11, after he reported for a check-in at ICE’s Manhattan offices. He was taken to a detention facility in Miami later that day, despite a federally issued temporary stay of deportation and a judge’s order for Ragbir to stay in the New York region, his attorney Alina Das said.

ICE told Das Wednesday that he would be brought back, but exactly where and when wasn’t clear.

“I’m very grateful about that,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams, who is among the local politicians who have rallied on Ragbir’s behalf, including the spur-of-the-moment civil disobedience that he, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and others participated in immediately following Ragbir’s detention. “Hopefully it’s not a short-sighted victory.”

Ragbir will remain detained pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging his detention.

“It’s infuriating me, and I see it as punishment, retaliation, trying to keep him away from his family, his community, his lawyers, his team, everybody,” said Amy Gottlieb, Ragbir’s wife of seven years, as she stood outside federal court on Tuesday. “He thrives as a person in community, and they’ve taken him away from that community.”

Ragbir came to the United States in 1991 from Trinidad and obtained a green card in 1994. But in 2006, a judge ordered him to be 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.

“It’s incredibly frustrating that we have to go to great lengths just to give him his day in court that he was already on track to receive,” Das said about the effort to appeal the original wire fraud conviction, adding the government has been “incredibly aggressive.”

Gottlieb, who was with Ragbir when he was arrested, said she watched him faint.

“He told me he was going to black out and then his eyes rolled back and he fainted,” she said, adding of the protest outside that day: “I was in such a state of disbelief that everything was happening. It felt so powerful and moving and beautiful to have all our supporters have this immediate reaction to what was such an injustice.”

Another New Sanctuary Coalition leader, Jean Montrevil, was deported to Haiti on Tuesday following his detainment by ICE in New York two weeks ago, his lawyers confirmed on Wednesday.

Since then, Gottlieb said she’s experienced feelings such as “terror, fear, anger kind of rotating … panic.”

A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 29 to determine whether Ragbir’s detention was lawful, his attorney said.

A total of 18 people were arrested during Thursday’s protest in Foley Square, including Rodriguez and Williams. The councilmen face several charges, including disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment.

A rally in support of Ragbir, Williams, Rodriguez and the 16 other protesters who were arrested in Foley Square was held at the Holyrood Episcopal Church in Washington Heights on Wednesday.

Williams demanded the city investigate what he described as a nonviolent protest that turned scary and violent.

The video most folks saw of me was of (the) fourth or fifth time I was shoved,” he said ahead of the rally. “The plan right now is to find out what exactly happened that day.”

The NYPD was reviewing video of officers’ interactions with Rodriguez, who accused an officer of putting him in a chokehold, a police spokeswoman said last week.

At an unrelated event in Brooklyn on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the investigation would look at the actions of each officer, but added that “the police did the best they could.”

“This was a very challenging situation with a lot of unexpected factors, and I think it deserves a full investigation,” he said. “I’m always concerned when I see a situation that people feel uncomfortable with.”

With Lauren Cook and Polly Higgins

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