BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Updated Jan. 28, 2020, 5:55 p.m. Over 150 supporters rallied with immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir at Foley Square on Jan. 23 before his 9:30 scheduled check-in with ICE.
Two years ago, what was supposed to be a standard check-in turned into something much greater. Ragbir, Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, was detained, fainted, taken by ambulance to hospital and then flown to Krone Detention Facility in Miami while supporters demonstrated, got arrested and fought his deportation. There is a stay in place to prevent his deportation, but he still has to report to ICE, and has to return on July 23.
Politicians and faith leaders with his wife accompanied Ragbir into the Federal Building while supporters circled the Federal Building and prayed, and accompanied him when he was released.
Ragbir’s attorney Alina Das responded to ICE’s claims that his previous detention was for public safety. “ICE targeted Ravi because he spoke out against a cruel and unjust system. He is still here because the public has spoken out for him. We are grateful that Ravi is still with us, and we will continue to fight to protect the rights of all immigrants.”
Amy Gottlieb, his wife, spoke to supporters after his check-in. “We are so grateful to have the support of our legal team, our families, our friends, our elected officials, our faith leaders, as ICE continues to try to exert power over our lives. But we know that we will walk out each time, and that our power as a united community will overcome injustice and lead us to victory.”
Ragbir received his green card in 1994, but now faces the double punishment of deportation based on a single fraud conviction he received almost twenty years ago. He was given a final order of deportation in 2007 but was placed on an order of supervision in 2008, allowing him to live and work in the U.S. During that time, he became active in the immigrant rights movement, and
paid the price for that activism when ICE detained him on Jan. 11, 2018, and tried to deport him.
A federal appeals court has recognized that the First Amendment protects immigrants from retaliation for their protected political speech and has issued a temporary stay of Ragbir’s deportation. The government is deciding whether to appeal the decision.
“I happen to have the privilege of being a citizen,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at the rally. “And everybody who has privilege has to use that to protect those who don’t, those who are being abused and oppressed. That is our duty to stand in the gap. It is our duty to make sure we are lifting up those who have been oppressed by a system…. How do you have a life when you have to check in every six months and you don’t know what’s going to happen?”