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De Blasio writes letter to ICE asking agency not to deport Ravi Ragbir

New York City immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir is facing deportation and Mayor Bill de Blasio is asking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to let him remain here.
 Immigration activist Ravi Ragbir
Immigration activist Ravi Ragbir pictured at a demonstration last March. Photo: Getty Images

Mayor Bill de Blasio has written a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking the federal agency not to deport Ravi Ragbir, a local immigration rights advocate whose ICE detention sparked a rally in January.

Hundreds have voiced support for Ragbir after he was detained following a routine check-in with ICE. Community members have said that he is a pillar of the New York City community, and New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez brought Ragbir and his wife, also a local immigrant rights advocate, to the State of the Union in Washington.

“In his more than 20 years as a lawful permanent resident in the United States, Mr. Ragbir has made significant contributions to the city’s civic life and has been widely recognized for his work as a speaker, educator, and organizer on issues related to immigrant rights,” de Blasio wrote in his letter to the New York Field Office Director of ICE.

“Forcing him to return to Trinidad would not only affect his wife and child — who are U.S. citizens — but would adversely impact the larger immigrant community,” de Blasio continued.

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Ragbir is currently the executive director of The New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, a faith-based immigrant rights group. He was awarded the 2017 Immigrant Excellence Award by the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators for his efforts in helping the city’s immigrant community.

Though Ragbir’s legal team won his release from detention on Jan. 29, 2018, they learned that ICE ordered him to report for deportation on Feb. 10.

Elected officials and community organizers have called Ragbir’s ICE detention part of a “retaliation” effort by ICE against outspoken immigration activists.

Velázquez introduced a private immigration bill on Tuesday on the floor of the House of Representatives that if signed into law would provide Ragbir a path to permanent immigration status.

“In addition to providing a potential legislative remedy for Ravi’s supporters to rally around, this bill will also send a signal to ICE and the courts that Ravi enjoys strong support among the community and elected officials at all levels of government,” Velázquez said in a statement issued Tuesday. “It is my hope that the courts and ICE do the humane right thing by Ravi and this legislation sends them the message that we stand in solidarity with Ravi.”

The mayor noted in his letter that though ICE claims to prioritize deportation for those who “pose a public safety risk,” the actions against Ragbir raise concerns about how the agency may be targeting immigrants.

“These activities not only create fear in immigrant communities, but undermine public safety,” de Blasio wrote. “When ICE takes aggressive action against leaders in immigrant communities, it casts a chilling effect on immigrants’ willingness to engage with government and law enforcement generally, undercutting that trust.”

 
 
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