Ravi Ragbir, an immigration rights activist, in the United States is being held by ICE agents after he was arrested along with over a dozen other protesters and two New York City Council members on Thursday.
The sudden arrest of the Trinidadian-born migrant, whose legal status - like many migrants - has been in a state of limbo for almost ten years, sparked demonstrations outside the Manhattan federal building where he is being held.
Ragbir was attending his required annual ICE check-in when federal agents made the arrest. The migrant and executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, an immigrant rights organization, arrived in the U.S. in 2001 and is not only married to a citizen but has a green card, as well.
However, the Trinidadian native spent two years in imprisoned in an immigration jail in 2006 before initiating an active role for migrant rights.
An ICE spokesperson said that Ragbir’s case has been under extensive investigation by the nation’s judicial system in both the courts of immigration and appeals, for years. The final verdict states his case lacks the legal basis to remain in the states and his additional criminal detention and the consequential restitution fee of US$350,001 are additional impeding factors.
“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,” the agency said. “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.”
On receiving the news of his impending deportation, Ragbir reportedly fainted, and an ambulance was sent to the New York ICE immigration office.
“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.”
At least 18 others were arrested including City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams.
"The man in the White House claims they’re trying to deport rapists and murderers and things like that,” said Councilman Williams. "Ravi is nothing (like that). He’s an upstanding resident. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.... No one’s safety is better off now because Ravi is gone.”
“This was the toughest one I’ve experienced,” he said. “I was thrown around. People were thrown around like rag dolls.”
From Twitter, Councilman Rodriguez denounced the shameful treatment of migrants.
Rodriguez described the incident as the loss of a "great civil rights leader." The councilman was arraigned Thursday night after being charged with reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct, obstructing government administration of medical services, and resisting arrest, and released without bail.