NEW YORK, Jan 12 — US immigration agents arrested a prominent New York activist yesterday to deport him to his country of birth, Trinidad and Tobago, as the Trump administration tightens its screws on migration.
Ravi Ragbir was taken into custody at his annual appointment with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in Manhattan, having lived for years under fear of deportation since a wire fraud conspiracy conviction in 2001.
He was saved previously thanks to a series of deferrals and by a former US administration that prioritized the deportation only of violent criminals.
Witnesses said Ragbir was driven away in an ambulance after fainting, surrounded by a crowd of supporters shouting “Ravi, Ravi” trying to prevent the vehicle from leaving.
“He will remain in custody pending removal to Trinidad,” a spokeswoman for ICE told AFP, saying that Ragbir had exhausted his petitions and appeals.
Ragbir has not lived in Trinidad for 25 years. His US immigration lawyer wife and American-born daughter are “devastated”, his lawyer Alina Das said.
“He’s a good man,” Das told AFP, confirming that he had no right to further court hearings, but that she had nonetheless filed appeals demanding his release.
“Ravi represents so much of what’s great about this country, we’ll continue to fight for him. We’ve fought tirelessly for him because we believe in him.”
Ragbir entered the United States on a visitor’s visa in February 1991 and went on to acquire a green card, but in 2001 was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud while working for a mortgage lender.
He spent three years under house arrest appealing his sentence and two years in a US federal jail.
He was then incarcerated two more years in New Jersey and Alabama, awaiting deportation. His lawyers appealed but the Supreme Court declined to intervene.
For years he had been running the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, an interfaith network that trains dozens of volunteers to accompany migrants to ICE appointments and works to resist deportations.
“I am living in fear,” he told AFP last March. — AFP