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“Letter from an Immigration Jail”: Hear the Words of Detained Immigrant Leader Ravi Ragbir

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On Martin Luther King Day here in New York City, hundreds gathered to oppose the detention of local activist Ravi Ragbir, who was detained last week when he went to his check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Ragbir is executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, and he helped pioneer the accompaniment program for thousands of others who face similar check-ins. Ravi’s detention sparked a peaceful protest that was met with police violence. Police arrested 18 people, including members of the New York City Council. Ravi legally immigrated to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago more than 25 years ago, but a 2001 wire fraud conviction made his green card subject to review. Even though he is married to a U.S. citizen and has a U.S.-born daughter, the government refused to normalize his status. Just a week prior, Jean Montrevil, another leader with the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, was detained outside of his home. He was deported to Haiti on Tuesday. On Monday, hundreds circled Washington Square Park in a Jericho walk and then gathered at Judson Memorial Church to show support for Ravi and Jean. Rhiya Trivedi, a member of Ravi Ragbir’s defense committee, read a letter from Ravi.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: On Martin Luther King Day, here in New York, hundreds gathered to oppose the detention of local activist Ravi Ragbir, who was detained last week when he went to his check-in with ICE—that’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ragbir is executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. He helped pioneer the accompaniment program for thousands of others who face similar check-ins. Ravi’s detention sparked a peaceful protest that was met with police violence. Police arrested 18 people, including members of the New York City Council.

Ravi Ragbir legally immigrated to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago more than 25 years ago. But a 2001 wire fraud conviction made his green card subject to review. Even though he’s married to a U.S. citizen and has a U.S.-born daughter, the government refused to normalize his status.

Just a week prior, Jean Montrevil, another leader with the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, was detained outside his home. He was deported to Haiti on Tuesday.

Well, on Monday, hundreds circled Washington Square Park in Lower Manhattan in a Jericho walk, then gathered at Judson Memorial Church to show support for Ravi and Jean. Speakers included Rhiya Trivedi, a member of Ravi Ragbir’s defense committee.

RHIYA TRIVEDI: This weekend, it was my great privilege to accompany Amy to see Ravi, to update him on all you’ve been doing, and to hear his jokes about how he’s never moved through the TSA as quickly as when he was accompanied by eight ICE agents. Today, it’s my great privilege to share this message from Ravi, this “Letter from an Immigration Jail.”

“I’m doing OK. It was a wild and crazy ride. Every moment was uncertain except the certainty that they wanted me gone. I’m still here because of all of you. Thank you. I miss everyone. I feel very heartbroken to see how many of you are suffering for me, how many people were abused during this process. I feel heartbroken that care for someone evokes violence.

“I want everyone to stand strong. At this moment, we need to speak about changing the system so that no one has to face this type of harm, not just for me but for all the families who face being torn apart. Until we get reform, we need to repeal the act that criminalizes immigrants, that makes us less than human because of a document.

“I call upon immigrants: If you need help, reach out to the New Sanctuary Coalition, and they will fight for you, as they do for me. And I call upon citizens to answer the call for immigrants, who are afraid and who need help standing up. Please, accompany them at every step. I know that I will see you all very soon.”

Thanks, everybody.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Rhiya Trivedi, a member of Ravi Ragbir’s defense committee, speaking on Monday, New York—on Monday in New York. She was reading Ravi Ragbir’s letter.

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New York City Councilmember Jumaane Williams: Civil Disobedience Is Needed to Protect Immigrants

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