On January 26, Manhattan judge Katherine Forrest ordered the release of immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir. Ragbir, the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, was arrested on January 11 and set to be deported soon thereafter.
Ravi Ragbir became a lawful U.S. resident in 1994. In 2000, however, Ragbir was convicted of fraud while working as a mortgage lender and served a short prison sentence. He was set to be deported but was released in 2008 under supervision. After that, Ragbir has become a figure of authority in the immigration rights movement. On January 11 when Ragbir went in for a regular check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), he was told he was going to be detained and soon deported. After fainting, Ragbir was taken to a local hospital and then sent to a federal deportation center in Miami.
Immediately after the arrest, Ragbir’s legal team from NYU Law School’s Immigration Rights Clinic filed a habeas corpus petition and claimed that his constitutional, statutory, and regulatory rights were being violated. Katherine Forrest, a Manhattan District Judge, ruled on Ragbir’s case and called for his immediate release. Forrest spoke about the “freedom to say goodbye” that all citizens are entitled to and argued that Ragbir was not awarded this right. The implications of Ragbir’s case are not unique, however.
In October 2017, Keston Lett was arrested at John F. Kennedy airport for importing drugs into the country. After a $30,000 bond, Lett was released from the custody of the Brooklyn court to his aunt’s house in New Jersey. While in transit, Lett was detained under ICE orders, who were acting under the pretense of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (INA), which allows for the Executive Branch to detain aliens. Lett was then sent to an immigration detention center in Kearny, N.J.
Mr. Lett’s case was brought to Judge Dora Irizarry, who ruled that the ICE’s detention of the defendant violated the Bail Reform Act of 1984 (BRA). Judge Irizarry referenced two other cases that highlighted similar tensions between the BRA and INA.
In light of these recent cases, a striking discord between the Trump Administration’s stricter immigration policy and the judicial branch is evident. ICE detainment has begun to overstep its legal boundaries and create a rift between district judges and immigration enforcement officers.
The court decision may be accessed here.
Sheel Patel is an editorial intern at the International Enforcement Law Reporter.