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Lawsuit: Immigration activists being deported to silence dissent

"When you look at who they're taking away, it is evident that activists and leaders are being picked up," said immigrants' rights activist Ravi Ragbir. "We know that this is psychological warfare they're instituting against the community so that people will believe there is no hope."

Ragbir is one of several activists who have been picked up and scheduled for deportation recently. He and most of the others are technically deportable because they have criminal records. However, it appears their arrests were not a random part of the Trump administration's recent focus on deporting people with criminal histories.

Ragbir is a leader of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, a coalition of some 150 faith-based, pro-immigrant groups. He was arrested on Jan. 11 after a routine check-in with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. A week before that, Jean Montrevil, another leader of New Sanctuary, was arrested and deported to Haiti.

Also in January, ICE seemingly retaliated against another immigrant activist who had received media attention after she sought church sanctuary from a deportation order. Her husband was detained.

And, an unauthorized immigrant with no criminal record in Washington was hauled in for deportation proceedings recently.

Late last month, a federal judge gave Ragbir more time. Finding that his sudden detention was unnecessarily cruel and that he hadn't received any time to say his farewells, she ordered his release. In a footnote to her decision, she wrote, "The Court also notes with grave concern the argument that petitioner has been targeted as a result of his speech and political advocacy on behalf of immigrants' rights and social justice."

The USCIS insists that it "does not target unlawfully present aliens for arrest based on advocacy positions they hold or in retaliation for critical comments they make."

Ragbir intends to find out. He has filed a lawsuit claiming that he and the other activists have been specifically targeted for deportation. Federal prosecutors and Ragbir's lawyers made an agreement that he would not be deported until his case was heard, which should occur sometime in March.

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