A federal judge in Manhattan ordered the release of a prominent immigrants-rights activist facing imminent deportation Monday, pillorying the Trump administration’s immigration policies as “unnecessarily cruel.”
Judge Katherine Forrest’s order prohibits Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from immediately deporting Ravi Ragbir, a prominent political activist from Trinidad and Tobago, and characterized the abrupt deportation of longtime residents as typical of unjust regimes.
“Those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust, regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken without notice from streets, home, and work. And sent away,” she wrote.
“We are not that country; and woe be the day that we become that country under a fiction that laws allow it,” she added.
ICE detained Ragbir Jan. 11 during a routine appointment in New York. A federal judge sanctioned his deportation in 2006 given an earlier conviction for wire fraud, though he has remained in the U.S. for over a decade under ICE’s supervision. He is a lawful permanent resident who obtained a green card in 1994, and currently serves as executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, a progressive advocacy group.
Sympathetic activists charge that ICE targeted Ragbir given his political prominence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Waterman vigorously denied the allegation, telling reporters that such claims are “pure speculation.”
Monday’s order is not a reprieve from deportation. Rather, ICE is required to provide Ragbir time to organize his personal affairs before sending him back to Trinidad and Tobago.
“There is, and ought to be in this great country, the freedom to say goodbye,” Forrest wrote.
Local press reports the courtroom was packed with Ragbir supporters, who burst into applause as the judge read her decision.
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