A federal judge on Monday compared the behavior of immigration agents to “treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust” and issued an order for the release of a well-known immigration activist who was suddenly arrested on Jan. 11 during a check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“There is, and ought to be in this great country, the freedom to say goodbye,” Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District of New York wrote in a court order.
“That is, the freedom to hug one’s spouse and children, the freedom to organize the myriad of human affairs that collect over time,” the order continued. “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, regimes where those who have lived in a country may be taken without notice from streets, home, and work. And sent away.”
“We are not that country; and woe be the day that we become that country under a fiction that laws allow it,” Forrest added.
Ragbir came to the United States decades ago and became a legal permanent resident. He was convicted of wire fraud in 2001 and, following time behind bars and a deportation order, maintained a clean record and regularly checked in with immigration officials. He is the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, an immigrant advocacy group.
Ragbir’s sudden arrest — and deportation proceedings, which Forrest did not stop with her order Monday — was cited by immigration activists as one of the most prominent instances of activist leaders being targeted for arrest and deportation. Other recently arrested activist leaders include Jean Montrevil, who was deported to Haiti after living in the United States for decades; and Eliseo Jurad, who was detained by ICE in Colorado and whose wife has notably sought sanctuary in the Boulder Unitarian Universalist Church.
Political figures in New York City protested Ragbir’s arrest. Two city councilors were among those arrested at a rally in support of Ragbir on the day of his arrest.
Forrest acknowledged in her order Monday that Ragbir still faces deportation, noting that “[t]he process that was due here is not the process that will allow him to stay indefinitely—those processes have been had,” but, she wrote, it violated Ragbir’s rights to begin the path to deportation without allowing him time to “organize his affairs, and [to] do so by a date certain.”
Read Forrest’s order below: