At least two New York City Council members were among over a dozen people arrested while protesting the detention of prominent immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir by ICE agents on Thursday morning.
Ragbir legally immigrated to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago in 1991, but his legal status has been in limbo since a 2001 conviction for wire fraud. He was detained by federal officials during a routine ICE check-in he is required to undergo annually. I have reached out to ICE’s New York field office for details on Ragbir’s arrest, and to determine why he was detained during this particular check-in.
Whatever ICE’s reason for his detention, Ragbir’s arrest prompted immediate and visceral protests from supporters gathered outside the Manhattan federal building where he was taken into custody.
At least 12 people were arrested by the NYPD, including City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams.
Ragbir—who has a green card and is married to a U.S. citizen—was previously imprisoned in an immigrant jail in 2006. He was released nearly two years later, and became the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, an immigrants rights network consisting of “congregations, organizations, and individuals, standing publicly in solidarity with families and communities resisting detention and deportation in order to stay together.”
“Ravi Ragbir means everything to this city,” New Sanctuary Coalition Co-Chair Rev. Kaji Dousa told Democracy Now! on Thursday. “A longtime New Yorker, a husband and a father, Ravi is beloved by all of us who have had the privilege of working with him to make New York a welcoming community for all of its residents. The fact that ICE has taken him as if his spirit, family ties and contributions to the community mean nothing is inhumane.”
A vigil for Ragbir is scheduled for 5pm EST on Thursday, outside the Varick Street Immigration Court in Manhattan.
Update—4:40 PM: In an email to Splinter, an ICE spokesperson explained Ragbir’s arrest saying:
Over the last 12 years, Mr. Ragbir’s immigration case has undergone extensive judicial review at multiple levels of the nation’s judicial system, including both immigration courts and federal appeals courts. In each review, the courts have uniformly held that Mr. Ragbir does not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S. In an exercise of discretion, the agency had previously allowed him to remain free from custody with periodic check-ins, while his case was under court review.
He has since exhausted his petitions and appeals through the immigration courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the U.S. District Court. He will remain in custody pending removal to Trinidad.
In addition to Mr. Ragbir’s immigration violations, he has a previous federal conviction for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, rendering him an aggravated felon. He was sentenced to 30 months incarceration, and ordered restitution in the amount of $350,001.