A day after Ravi Ragbir was unexpectedly detained by the officers of the US’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the TT-born immigration rights leader was said to be “fine and in good spirits.”
Ragbir, who serves as executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC (New Sanctuary NYC), was unexpectedly detained in NYC while reporting to ICE for a scheduled check-in on Thursday.
He now faces permanent exile from the US, most likely back to TT from which he emigrated to the US in February 1991 on a visitor’s visa.
New Sanctuary NYC, in urging people to support a campaign calling for Ragbir’s release, noted that although he received lawful permanent residency in 1994, Ragbir “faces deportation based on a single conviction for wire fraud that he received in 2001.”
Newsday was updated on Ragbir’s situation yesterday by Kirk Cheyfitz. The co-founder of Story Worldwide is serving as media liaison for New Sanctuary NYC on all queries concerning Ragbir.
Asked if anyone had been able to communicate with the immigration activist since his detention on Thursday morning, Cheyfitz said, “Ravi has been able to make a limited number of phone calls to his wife and to a close friend.”
It was during those conversations that Ragbir indicated he was fine and in good spirits.
Although Ragbir passed out briefly after ICE officers “bluntly and harshly told him they were detaining him, he recovered and is, as far as we know, in good health now.”
While phone calls have been allowed, Ragbir’s family, including his wife – US citizen and fellow immigration rights activist – Amy Gottlieb, was able to see him as of yesterday afternoon.
Cheyfitz told Newsday, “Soon after his detention by ICE, he was rushed to a detention centre in Miami, Florida. His lawyers are fighting to have him returned to the NY region.” Regarding the likelihood of Ragbir being deported because of a 2001 wire fraud conviction, Cheyfitz said Ragbir’s legal team has contested the legality of that conviction.
“A court is close to ruling on that challenge. His legal team also is in court challenging the legality of the deportation order as well as the legality of detaining Ravi. But instead of waiting for Ravi’s legal challenges to be heard and properly decided, the government has detained Ravi and is trying to deport him.”
Cheyfitz noted that Ragbir has served his sentence in prison and since his release, “has been a leader in his community, a fighter for human rights and has helped to protect the rights of thousands of immigrants.”
“Ravi has the support of thousands of New Yorkers and people around the world, including the leading elected officials of New York. We are hopeful that justice will prevail and Ravi will be released to return to his important work and to his wife, friends and community, who need him.”
Ragbir’s friends and co-workers at New Sanctuary NYC are “upset, of course” but Cheyfitz said everyone is continuing the organisation’s “vital work”.
This included, yesterday, accompanying friends to their court hearings and ICE check-ins. “We will not be deterred from this work,” Cheyfitz declared.
He said New Sanctuary NYC is doing everything it can to keep the American people and the world aware and informed of Ragbir’s case “and the cases of thousands of other immigrants who have been and continue to be taken away in chains and subjected to the threat of being deported for no legitimate reason.”
The organisation’s members and supporters are keeping vigils, talking to reporters, writing and phoning their elected representatives as well as phoning ICE officials to demand Ragbir’s freedom.
This included social media posts, urging people to call their elected representatives to request Ragbir be released. People were also asked to share a poster with the relevant information for ICE and NYC elected officials, using the hashtag #IStandWithRavi