On January 11, 2018, immigrant activist and Executive Director of New Sanctuary Coalition, Ravi Ragbir, went to a regular check-in with ICE in downtown Manhattan. He was detained and informed he’d be deported. He left in an ambulance and shortly after was transferred to a detainment facility in Florida.

Ragbir is just another, perhaps the most prominent, immigrant activist who has been detained. The immigrant activist community has been very vocal on Ragbir’s detention. The day of his detention, there were protests, where people were arrested, including NYC Councilmembers Jumaane Williams  and Ydanis Rodriguez. The hashtag #IStandWithRagbir made rounds on social media. The most recent one today.


Today, the immigrant community had a win: Katherine B. Forrest, District Judge in the Southern District of NY has ordered that DHS release Ravi Ragbir.

In her decision Judge Forrest explains that there are fundamental rights at the heart of the case, like due process: “Before the deprivation of liberty, there is due process and an aversion to acts that are unnecessarily cruel.”

Judge Forrest acknowledges that Ragbir has a final deportation order, that could be acted upon at any time. However, she takes issue with the way Ragbir was treated, saying everyone should be able to “say goodbye.” She says he should have time to prepare his affairs and know when the time comes, not to be forcefully put on an airplane and removed, and ending up in a prison cell.

Judge Forrest does an excellent job of pointing to the Constitution: The need for DUE PROCESS, and the protection the Constitution offers from CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT. The way the Government acted, she says, is cruel and usual.

If due process means anything at all, it means that we must look at the totality of circumstances and determine whether we have dealt fairly when we are depriving a person of the most essential aspects of life, liberty and family.

By allowing Ragbir to stay in the country and to be part of the community, Judge Forrest explains, the Government *committed itself* to allow an orderly departure. In other words, the way they went about removing Ragbir is the issue.

Has Judge Forrest set precedent for future cases of detainment and deportation attempts by ICE?  When she recognizes that there are many more people in a situation similar to Ragbir, and pointing to the cruel and usual nature of the deportation attempt, has she helped prevent similar attempts to remove immigrants? Judge Forrest says:

Taking such a man, and there are many such men and women like him, and subjecting him to what is rightfully understood as no different or better than penal detention, is essentially cruel. We as a country need and must not act so. The Constitution commands better.


This is a small win for immigration activists, but Jean Montrevil, a Haitian immigrant and also an immigrant activist wasn’t so lucky: Montrevil was deported to Haiti earlier this month. 

Ravi hugs his wife Amy upon release. Photo courtesy of Alina Das

Indeed, it seems that immigrant activists are being especially targeted:

Amy Gottlieb, Ravi Ragbir’s wife, said, “I am appalled to see the growing attacks on immigrant leaders. Ravi was detained at a regularly scheduled check-in with ICE, even though nothing had changed in his legal case – it is clear that he is targeted because of his outspoken challenges to our unjust immigration system. It is devastating to see my husband and so many others locked up in county jails, their liberty taken away from them, while private companies and others profit from our suffering.”

Ingrid Encalada Latorre, a mother who is currently in sanctuary in Colorado says, “ICE is attacking us as leaders and activists at the local and national level. They don’t want us to lead, but they won’t silence us because we too have rights as immigrants in this country.”

Alina Das, Ravi Ragbir’s attorney, says they are are now focused on “fighting his deportation through the legal cases we had pending before he was abruptly detained.”

 If you’re interested in following this case more closely, make sure to follow Ravi’s Defense team here.