New York, Feb 9: Leading Indian-descent immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir won't have to leave the country before a First Amendment lawsuit is heard. His long battle over deportation has drawn support from Democratic politicians in New York.
Ragbir, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago who leads the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, a coalition of 150 faith-based pro-immigrant groups, says in a lawsuit that he and other activists have been wrongly targeted by immigration officials in an effort by the federal government to silence dissent.
"These activists have been surveilled, intimidated, harassed and detained, their homes raided, many have been plucked off the street in broad daylight, and some have even been deported," the lawsuit read.
Ragbir was taken into custody on January 11 after a routine check-in with immigration officials in New York. He previously served 30 months in prison for wire fraud because of work he did for a crooked mortgage company.
He said he has been given a deportation order for February 10, but has at least one pending court appeal before then. He was released last week after a federal ruled he hadn't been given enough time to say goodbye to his family.
That judge, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest, expressed "grave concern" over allegations he was targeted for deportation because of his political activities. The week before his arrest, another leader of the New Sanctuary Coalition, Jean Montrevil, was arrested in the street and deported to Haiti.
Montrevil was sentenced to an 11-year prison sentence for selling cocaine. US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement last month also detained the husband of an immigrant activist in Boulder, Colorado, who got media attention after seeking sanctuary from deportation in a church.
In a stipulation dated Thursday, federal prosecutors and Ragbir's lawyers agreed he won't be deported until the case is heard. Separately, he was appearing in court in Newark to ask a judge to stay deportation while he appealed the 2001 wire fraud conviction.