Prominent community activist Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, was arrested in New York City on January 11th during a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and was ordered immediately deported.
Immediately after officials informed him that he was going to be deported, Ragbir fainted. An ambulance was called to take Ragbir and his wife, Amy Gottlieb, who had accompanied him to ice’s offices, to New York-Presbyterian Hospital. When they arrived at the hospital, Gottlieb was asked to get out—to make room, she thought, for her husband to be wheeled out on a stretcher. But she was then surrounded by ice agents, and watched as the ambulance sped away.
The agents had said that they would soon let her know her husband’s whereabouts. A full day passed before she got a call from Ragbir himself. He was at a detention center in Miami.
Two New York city councilmen – Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams – were handcuffed and taken into custody, along with 16 others. “Ravi Ragbir is an extraordinary man, beloved in his community and dedicated to fighting for immigrant rights. Today, after more than two decades of living in this country, he was detained by ICE and removed in an ambulance,” said Williams in a tweet confirming his arrest.
“This is not how you treat people who are protesting for human rights. This is not what democracy looks like. We can’t call ourselves progressives and pro-immigrants when the NYPD is doing chokehold to us,” said Rodriguez after his arrest.
Vivek Trivedi, Indian American communications director for South Asian Americans Leading Together, alleged to India-West that protestors were “dragged through the streets” by New York police. Another protest was scheduled for the same day, 5 p.m. Eastern Time, at the ICE detention center on 201 Varick St., in New York City, where Ragbir is being held.
Ragbir, a Trinidad and Tobago native of Indian descent, arrived in the U.S. in 1991 on a visitor’s visa. In 1994, he became a lawful permanent resident. In 2006, Ragbir was ordered by an immigration judge to be detained and deported, stemming from a 2001 conviction of wire fraud – an aggravated felony. He spent 22 months in immigration detention.
Ragbir was then granted a stay of deportation until 2018 by ICE officers who used prosecutorial discretion. He was mandated to periodically check in with ICE. For a number of years, Ragbir’s check-ins were routine. But on March 9, shortly after President Donald Trump took office, Ragbir returned from a check-in telling local press he was required to attend the next check-in on April 11 with his travel documents.
“It’s arbitrary and cruel,” Gottlieb the media. “Someone makes an appointment to go into a regularly scheduled appointment with a government agency, and that agency snatches you away from your family.”