NEW YORK – The New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union today filed an amicus brief challenging the detention of immigrant rights leader and New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC Executive Director Ravi Ragbir, who was arrested earlier this month during a regular check in with immigration officials. The groups argue that Ragbir’s detention is contrary to Immigration and Customs Enforcement regulations and represents an alarming trend in which ICE targets immigrant rights leaders for deportation.
“Ravi’s arrest is part of a disturbing pattern. ICE is targeting immigrant advocates who dare to express dissent against the administration’s cruel deportation agenda,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “At stake are the rights of thousands of people with deep family and community ties here who have been cooperating with ICE for years but face the risk of being suddenly shackled and jailed for no reason and with none of the process they are due.”
Ragbir, like thousands of immigrants with families and jobs in the U.S., had been placed under an order of supervision by federal immigration officials, which requires regular reporting to immigration officials and complying with other requirements. In granting him that order, ICE had deemed Ragbir not to be a flight risk or a threat to public safety. It was during one of these routine check-ins that ICE detained Ragbir on January 11 when he arrived at 26 Federal Plaza.
Immigration officials have justified Ragbir’s detention by indicating that his eventual removal and deportation was likely. Yet the NYCLU and ACLU brief argues that, per ICE regulations, that likelihood alone is not sufficient to revoke Ragbir’s supervision order and justify his detention, because he poses no risk of flight.
The NYCLU and ACLU point out that Ragbir’s arrest is part of a recent alarming pattern in which ICE has targeted advocates and activists for removal. New Sanctuary Coalition is one of New York City’s preeminent immigrant rights organizations and Ragbir’s arrest occurred within the same week as the arrest of the group’s founding member, Jean Montrevil.
“ICE is engaged in a campaign of intimidation and fear. There is no justification for re-detaining people like Ravi who pose no danger or flight risk – except to send the message that ICE can lock them up at any time,” said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “That’s why regulations exist to keep ICE in check. ICE can’t simply ignore these regulations at its whim.”
In addition to Ragbir and Montrevil, in recent weeks a renowned immigrants’ rights activist in Washington state was served with a notice to appear for removal proceedings; an undocumented immigrant who spoke to a newspaper about his girlfriend’s immigration detention was promptly detained; the husband of an undocumented Peruvian woman who publicized her decision to take sanctuary in a Denver church was detained for deportation; and an activist with the prominent Arizona humanitarian group No More Deaths was arrested after the group issued a report and publicized videos revealing that Border Patrol agents destroyed food and water the group left for individuals crossing the desert.
“We’re seeing a new pattern both of attacks on immigrants who speak out about their rights, and of long-time community members targeted for sudden deportation, without regard for ICE’s own process and rules,” said Paige Austin, NYCLU staff attorney. “This means not only are people separated from their families, but they are torn away abruptly, without the opportunity to arrange for childcare, manage their financial affairs, sell their property or say goodbye to friends and family.”