A federal judge in New York City ordered the release of a prominent immigration activist, saying his detention was "unnecessarily cruel."
Ravi Ragbir, a citizen of Trinidad, was released Monday evening amid a fight deportation after being detained earlier this month.
In a seven-page decision, Judge Katherine Forrest said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement violated Ragbir’s rights by denying him due process and “the freedom to say goodbye.”
In her decision, Forrest said that Ragbir’s sudden and “unnecessary detention” after living in the United States “without incident, reporting as required to immigration authorities and building a home, a family, and a community” was “wrong.”
Forrest said that Ragbir should have been given time to organize his affairs before being taken into custody.
Outside the courthouse Monday afternoon, Ragbir’s wife, Amy Gottlieb, said she was moved “by the judge’s powerful language about what it means to live in a democracy.”
Ragbir, a Brooklyn resident and executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, has been under the threat of deportation following a conviction for wire fraud in 2001. He was placed into removal proceedings in 2006 and spent almost two years in detention before his 2008 release.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to give Ragbir legal relief in 2011. Subsequent court efforts have been unsuccessful. He was arrested during a regular check-in with ICE earlier in January.
According to Ragbir’s lawyers, he has followed the terms of his supervision while fighting for relief from removal. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has provided Ragbir with work authorization and four stays of removal.
Lawyers for Ragbir contend he was targeted by Scott Mechkowski, deputy field office director at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.
Jeremy Cutting, a legal intern with the Immigrant Rights Clinic, told the judge Mechkowski was upset after witnessing Ragbir's organization and Ragbir himself protesting outside his office. Cutting said Mechkowski had expressed resentment against Ragbir and his group.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Waterman called Cutting's claim "pure speculation" and said the government had seen no evidence to support it.
Ragbir has most recently been housed at the Orange County Correctional Facility in Goshen, New York.