One day he was in custody awaiting deportation to Trinidad.
Next day, he was attending Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
That’s correct! Trinidadian immigration activist, Ravi Ragbir, was the guest of a Brooklyn Councillor at President Trump’s address in Washington DC.
On Monday, a judge ordered Ragbir’s release, saying his detention by federal immigration agents was “unnecessarily cruel.”
Manhattan Federal Court Judge Katherine Forrest wrote that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had violated Ragbir’s rights to due process by not allowing him to get his affairs in order before being deported to his native Trinidad and Tobago.
“There is, and ought to be in this great country, the freedom to say goodbye,” Forrest wrote.
“It ought not to be — and it has never before been — that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust.”
Her decision was a forceful rebuke to President Trump’s harsh immigration policies.
Ragbir, 43, hit even harder after ICE agents dropped him off Monday night at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village.
RAVI RAGBIR, CENTRE
“This is ethnic cleansing,” the activist told the Daily News, noting Trump’s comments on immigration and now-infamous insult to other nations.
“We have built this country. They want to destroy it. This is about removing people of color and bringing in the Norways, bringing in the Europeans and getting rid of all the ‘shithole countries.’ We have to stop this.”
Ragbir said his head’s spinning on that point too — “It’s like an out-of-body experience.”
He said he didn’t believe what was happening until authorities dropped him off at the church.
Supporters in their glee
The ruling indicated Ragbir still faces eventual deportation. He is waging a separate fight in New Jersey and could also take his case to the Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals. Forrest’s order staying Ragbir’s deportation remains in place, for the moment.
An ICE spokesman criticized the judge’s decision to release Ragbir, whom he described as “an aggravated felon.”
“The agency is . . . concerned with the tone of the district court’s decision, which equates the difficult work ICE professionals do every day to enforce our immigration laws with ‘treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust,’ and is actively exploring its appellate options,” the spokesman said.
As the judge announced her decision, some in the courtroom erupted in applause. Others cried.
Ragbir’s wife and supporters called him at an immigration detention center in Goshen, Orange County, after getting the news.
He had been granted permanent residency in 1994, but it was revoked after a wire fraud conviction seven years later. He’d fought deportation since then and led a law-abiding life, while also becoming a prominent activist.
The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.
ICE previously said Ragbir had exhausted his legal efforts to stay in the country and that courts had found he had no legal basis to stay in the U.S.
His detention following a periodic check-in sparked protests in lower Manhattan and was cited by activists as an example of ICE targeting immigration activists for deportation.
“This abrupt and by all accounts unnecessary detention, a step in the direction of deportation, was wrong,” Forrest wrote. “We as a country need and must not act so. The Constitution commands better.”
Looking back on his weeks of detention, Ragbir said “what shocked me was the hopelessness of the people in detention. They don’t know about the resources. They don’t even realize they deserve a chance.