A federal judge compared the Trump administration to an authoritarian regime regarding its immigration policy, as she ordered the immediately release of a prominent immigration activist who was detained earlier this month. “We are not that country,” she said, calling Ravi Ragbir’s detention both cruel and unconstitutional.
In her sharp rebuke to the administration, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest drew parallels between how Ragbir, a nationally known immigration rights activist based in New York, was treated by authorities and how people are treated under authoritarian regimes.
“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 long lived in a country may be taken without notice from streets, home, and work,” said Forrest in the ruling issued Monday.
Ragbir, 45, is a leader of New Sanctuary Coalition, a collection of 150 faith-based organizations that provide immigration services. He became a lawful U.S. resident in 1994, and in 2000, was convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy for accepting fraudulent loan applications while he worked as a mortgage lender.
He served eight years in prison, after which he was ordered to be deported on the basis of his criminal conviction. He became influential in New York’s immigrant community, meeting with the Obama administration’s transition team on immigration policy. And over the course of the years, he received four stays of removal, according to the Washington Post.
His last stay ran out on Jan. 19, but during a Jan. 11 check-in meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he was detained. The detention proved so unexpected to Ragbir that he passed out and had to be taken to a hospital, a trip he made in handcuffs.
Ragbir was flown to Miami, where he was to be deported. His lawyers argued that he had the right to appear before a judge in New York, and that his detention was unlawful.
Judge Forrest ultimately agreed: “Before the deprivation of liberty, there is due process, and an aversion to acts that are unnecessarily evil,” she said. “These fundamental rights are at issue in this case.”
ICE has detained and deported a number of immigration activists in the past several weeks.