New York City immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir has been granted a temporary stay of deportation.
Ragbir was detained Jan. 11 after a routine check-in with U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement, a move that sparked protests throughout the city from supporters who called Ragbir a pillar of the community.
While Ragbir was released from ICE detention at the end of January, ICE then ordered him to report for deportation Feb. 10.
Now, Ragbir does not have to check in with ICE on Feb. 10, immigration activists with knowledge of his situation say, though supporters are still planning a “You Can’t Deport A Movement” rally in solidarity with all immigrants Saturday morning at 9 a.m.
Ragbir along with the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, CASA de Maryland, Detention Watch Network, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and the New York Immigration Coalition filed a suit in federal district court Friday morning to challenge the targeting of immigrant rights activists by federal immigration officials.
“Like so many people who are living in this country under the threat of deportation, I know how important it is to raise our voices against the injustices in the system,” Ragbir said in a statement. “This lawsuit is not just about me, it is about all of the members of our community who are speaking out in our struggle for immigrant rights.”
The government has agreed, those organizations confirmed, to stay Ragbir’s deportation temporarily.
“Justice was restored today, at least temporarily, as Mr. Ragbir is now able to remain in the United States and free until the Court reviews his constitutional claims,” said R. Stanton Jones of Arnold & Porter, the law firm involved in the suit, in a statement. “If the First Amendment means anything, it means the government can’t silence immigrant-rights activists like Mr. Ragbir by deporting them. We look forward to presenting these grave constitutional claims to the Court.”
The lawsuit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction, those involved said, restraining the government from taking further action to force a deportation order against Ragbir, and also seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction “restraining the government from selectively enforcing immigration laws against individuals based on protected political speech.”
“ICE’s targeting of immigrant-rights activists based on their protected speech and political advocacy plainly violates the First Amendment,” said Sally Pei of Arnold & Porter in a statement. “We intend to put an end to this vindictive practice.”
ICE denied that it targets immigrants based on their advocacy work or comments, saying in a statement that, "any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible, speculative and inaccurate."
"ICE focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security," the statement continued. "That being said, as ICE leadership has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and — if found removable by final order — removal from the United States.”
Ragbir has been in the U.S. since 1991. He has been living with the threat of deportation since 2001 after a wire fraud conviction, for which he was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. In 2006, a judge ordered his deportation based on that conviction, and he spent 22 months in immigration detention before being released in February 2008 when he was determined not to be a danger to the community, his defense team said.