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ICE sued for violating immigrant activists' First Amendment rights

Ravi Ragbir. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein / Getty

Immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir, with the backing of several pro-immigration rights groups, is suing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a New York federal district court. He's claiming that ICE violated his First Amendment rights by detaining him based only on his vocal activism.

Why it matters: There's expected to be an increase in ICE raids over the next year, with the Trump administration making it clear they intend to strictly enforce immigration laws. Ragbir and his lawyers are asking for an injunction that would protect Ragbir from deportation, but also would prevent ICE officials from arresting, detaining or deporting undocumented immigrants based on their protected political speech.

Background: Ragbir was suddenly arrested and detained by ICE on January 11th for 18 days, after which he was told to report for deportation on Saturday, February 10th. A federal court called his detention “unnecessarily cruel" and unconstitutional, alluding to possible First Amendment right violations.

"Like so many people who are living in this country under the threat of deportation, I know how important it is to raise our voices against the injustices in the system. This lawsuit is not just about me, it is about all of the members of our community who are speaking out in our struggle for immigrant rights.”
— Ravi Ragbir, in a press release

ICE response: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement does not target unlawfully present aliens for arrest based on advocacy positions they hold or in retaliation for critical comments they make. Any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible, speculative and inaccurate," ICE's Associate Executive Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Matthew Albence told Axios in a statement. "We will continue to target criminal aliens whenever and however they come to our attention."

Bottom line: "The Plaintiffs' reason for filing the litigation is understandable," Leon Fresco, immigration attorney for Holland & Knight told Axios. However, "the government will have a strong argument that if this litigation is successful, it would create the incentive for every person with potential immigration risk to become an advocate to avoid removal. So it will be important for Plaintiffs to make a carefully crafted argument to refute this point."

The latest: The government has stayed Ragbir's deportation until the briefing and the New York Southern District federal court considers the injunction. Ragbir's lawyers will file for the preliminary injunction on Monday, according to Stanton Jones, a partner at Arnold & Porter law representing the plaintiffs.

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