Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir was released Monday afternoon after a two-week detention, when a federal judge ruled in his favor with an impassioned statement against the Trump administration's immigration policies. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

'We Are Not That Country': Rebuking Trump Policies, Judge Orders Immigrant Rights Advocate Freed

"It ought not 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."

Julia Conley

In a strongly-worded ruling that condemned the Trump administration's immigration policies, a federal judge ordered that immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir be released from jail on Monday, more than two weeks after he was abruptly detained during a routine check-in with immigration officials.

"There is, and ought to be in this great country, the freedom to say goodbye," Judge Katherine Forrest said in a New York courtroom. "It ought not 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 long lived in a country may be taken without notice from streets, home, and work."

The judge's statement drew attention from supporters on social media.

Forrest argued that Ragbir was denied his due process rights when he was detained by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official on January 11.

While immigration law allowed Ragbir's arrest, Forrest argued, his Fifth Amendment rights should be seen as "North Stars that must guide our actions."

Ragbir came to the U.S. from his native Trinidad and Tobago in 1991 and got a green card in 1994. He co-founded the New Sanctuary Coalition, which works to protect immigrants from deportation and detention.

The activist was convicted of wire fraud in 2001 and his deportation was ordered, but he was released from jail in 2008 and has cooperated with routine check-ins with immigration officials since then—until one of those check-ins led to his detainment.

Impassioned protests erupted the day Ragbir was detained, with 18 people being arrested.

The New York Immigration Coalition applauded the judge's decision on Monday.

"We are relieved that Ravi Ragbir has been released from detention and reunited with his wife and community while his legal case continues," said executive director Steven Choi. "Ravi and other immigrant rights leaders have been viciously targeted by ICE for speaking out against the injustices of our immigration system. This is a naked attempt to intimidate us into silence, but we will only get louder."

Ragbir's lawyers are challenging his criminal conviction in court now, arguing that official who detained him did not have authority to do so.

Forrest's defense of Ragbir's rights left his attorneys feeling hopeful, though he could be detained again if ICE appeals the ruling, as the agency is considering.

"I think it both supports a growing recognition that ICE's cruel practices deprive people of their liberty and will not be tolerated by the courts, while also hopefully setting a ground that will be helpful to others," said one of the lawyers, Alina Das, of Forrest's statement.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Fetterman Taps Person Who Literally Wrote the Book on Killing Senate Filibuster as Chief of Staff

"It will be invaluable to have a veteran of the Senate and a veteran of state politics in these key positions as we serve the people of Pennsylvania," said the Senator-elect about two key hires for his new staff.

Jon Queally ·


Biden Urged to Sign Executive Order Guaranteeing Rail Workers Paid Sick Leave

After the president brokered a compulsory contract without a single paid day off for illness, one labor advocate implored him to "put up or shut up about how you really want them to have sick leave!"

Brett Wilkins ·


Campaigners Demand Deep Cuts to Plastic Production as Global Treaty Negotiations Ramp Up

"The scale of the problem is mind-boggling," said one advocate. "Plastic is in our blood. It's in fetuses. It's really encroaching on every aspect of human existence."

Julia Conley ·


Putting 'Profits Over People', Senate Rejects Paid Sick Leave for Rail Workers

"Senate Republicans and Joe Manchin have yet AGAIN failed working Americans by voting down seven days of paid sick leave for rail workers," lamented Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

Brett Wilkins ·


'We Must Cancel Student Debt,' Activists Argue as SCOTUS Agrees to Hear Case in February

"The right-tilted Supreme Court now holds in the balance relief for millions of hardworking Americans," said one campaigner. "It would be a giant loss for the economy if justices rule in favor of the special interests."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo