When I joined a thousand other immigrant rights supporters on Saturday morning outside of the immigration court at Foley Square in New York City, I heard one message over and over, “We can’t let ICE deport the leaders of the immigrant movement.”
People from all over the city, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island came together to support Ravi Ragbir of the New Sanctuary Movement, whom the Trump administration has been trying to deport since January.
Ragbir is a well-known voice for undocumented immigrants and has himself faced deportation for a decade. Although Ragbir, “Ravi” to those at the rally, lost his status following a conviction, he had been allowed by the Bush and Obama administrations to stay in the U.S. while complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) monitoring requirements.
Last month, without any warning, Ragbir was arrested by ICE and fast-tracked for deportation during a routine check-in with Homeland Security. A federal judge recently slammed the Trump administration for its inhumane treatment of Ravi and ordered him released from custody. His final deportation, scheduled for this week, was delayed by the court.
Ragbir’s wife, immigration attorney Amy Gottlieb, told the crowd of supporters “the only way that I am standing here is because of every single one of you.” She said that the problem of sharply rising ICE arrests “is not just about Ravi, there are thousands of people living this fear every day.”
Ragbir said that he had been ordered to report to Homeland Security on Saturday to be arrested again and never walk out. He said that he and other immigrant leaders are being deported, according to ICE, in the interests of “national security.” He joked that if he had Russia backing him, then perhaps he would not have been considered a threat to national security. Even though he knows that his words are being reported to the Department of Homeland Security, he said that the administration’s effort to “Make America White Again” had to be defeated by the immigrant rights movement.
Ragbir has done a remarkable job of binding religious congregations together with immigrant communities to provide protection for immigrants being hunted by ICE. In doing so, he has made himself a target for deportation. If leaders like him are dragged off in chains, it will soon be too dangerous for immigrants to raise their voices.