Judson Church immigrant-rights activist held by ICE

A supporter of Ravi Ragbir in Foley Square became emotional after the demonstrators heard that he had been detained by ICE. Photos by Tequila Minsky

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | Updated Thurs., Jan. 18, 1:20 p.m.: Activist Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, reported Thursday at his appointed routine check-in date but was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

With ICE apparently wanting to remove him quickly from his New York base, Ragbir was then flown right down to a detention center in Florida, where he was reportedly set to be deported to Trinidad and Tobago.

Hundreds of immigrant activists and members of faith communities rallied at Foley Square and then began a Jericho Walk — a silent vigil while walking around the federal immigration building at 26 Federal Plaza in solidarity with Ragbir. When it was announced that Ragbir was detained, they gathered with hands raised toward the building and emitted a long, loud groan and then crossed to Foley Square for a rally.

Speaking at the rally Jani Cauthen — whose former husband Jean Montrevil, the father of her children, was picked up near Far Rockaway by ICE on Wednesday — denounced this stepped-up ICE activity.

Reverend Michah Bucey of Judson Memorial Church, Juan Carlos Ruiz of the New Sanctuary Coalition and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also spoke.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson had entered the building with Ragbir, along with Ragbir’s wife and lawyer, and tried to reason with ICE agents but no avail. When he came back out, Johnson told Ragbir’s supporters that the activist had fainted and an ambulance had been called and was there, and that everyone should go there “now!”

After they heard Ragbir had been detained, his supporters raised their hands outside Federal Plaza and let out a long, loud groan.

The faith leaders, politicians and others at the rally got to the ambulance as it was exiting the federal building.

Demonstrators surrounded the ambulance as it inched along Duane St. and Broadway as the federal police officers roughly and forcefully tried to clear the street.

Demonstrators, including Councilmember Jumaane Williams and Ydanis Rodriguez, blocked traffic and were arrested. There were a total of 18 arrests.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson told everyone Ravi Ragbir had fainted inside Federal Plaza and was about to be taken away in an ambulance and that everyone should go over to the ambulance “now!”

Ragbir is a leader in the immigrant-rights movement. He was awarded the 2017 Immigrant Excellence Award by the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, given to those who show “deep commitment to the enhancement of their community.”

Reverend Kaji Dousa, the senior pastor of Park Avenue Christian Church, is co-chairperson of the New Sanctuary Coalition.

“Ravi Ragbir means everything to this city,” Dousa said.

Later that evening, hundreds — including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer — rallied in support of Ragbir in front of ICE’s Varick St. Immigrant Detention Center, at W. Houston St.

Jumaane Williams getting arrested on Broadway below Chambers St. after blocking traffic in protest of Ravi Ragbir’s detention.

Upon his detention, Ragbir’s attorneys filed a lawsuit challenging ICE’s actions in federal court.

On Wed., Jan. 17, federal immigration officials agreed to return Ragbir to the New York area, where he will remain detained pending the outcome of his legal case. Reportedly, as of Thursday night, he was back in the New York area, at the Orange County Correctional Facility, in the Hudson Valley.

Another hearing on the lawfulness of his detention is scheduled for the end of January.

“The last five days have been a nightmare for me,” said Amy Gottlieb, Ragbir’s wife.

“We will call for action in our places of worship, in the streets, and in the courts until we receive justice for Ravi, Jean and all others who face this inhumane system,” said Dousa, the New Sanctuary Coalition co-chairperson. “As people of faith, we must stand united against the targeting of our immigrant rights leaders.”

On Monday, Martin Luther King Day, the coalition held a Jericho Walk around Washington Square Park. They will be holding their weekly Jericho Walk at 26 Federal Plaza on Thurs. Jan. 18, at 11 a.m., and then at 201 Varick St., at 5 p.m., in support of justice for all immigrants, including Ragbir and Jean Montrevil, a founding coalition member who just days earlier was deported to Haiti.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, holding the right side of the “Immigrantes” light sign, above, and others rallied outside the ICE Detention Center at 75 Varick St. Thursday evening in support of detained immigrant-rights activist Ravi Ragbir, a leader of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. Photo by Q. Sakamaki

Ragbir has lived with the threat of deportation for nearly a decade, as the result of a 16-year-old conviction for wire fraud. He was placed into removal proceedings in 2006 and spent 22 months in immigration detention before being released in February 2008. The Daily News reported that he was granted permanent residency in 1994, but it was revoked after his conviction of wire fraud in 2000. He served a 30-month prison sentence.

During immigration detention and since his release, Ragbir has worked to end the use of immigration detention, stop deportations and secure relief for countless individuals.

Like Ragbir, Montrevil, who is from Haiti, had been permitted to live with his family in the U.S. pending his legal challenges to his case.

A protester being arrested on Broadway near City Hall after Ravi Ragbir was detained.

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