Activist Ravi Ragbir on the Dehumanization of Immigrants

ICE tried to deport this immigration activist for a nearly two-decade-old conviction — even though he already served time. He told Brut that he thinks the Trump administration is intentionally traumatizing immigrant families.

They didn't want to see me deported

ICE raids, family separations, conditions inside detention centers — immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir says the Trump administration is intentionally traumatizing immigrant families. Ragbir is an outspoken critic, even as he fights his own immigration case. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Ragbir has lived in the U.S. for nearly 30 years. His wife and daughter are U.S. citizens. But he faces deportation from a nearly 20-year-old wire fraud conviction — for which he served time. He then spent 22 months in immigrant detention before being released in February 2008. He had routine ICE check-ins, but in January 2018, ICE took him into custody and tried to deport him. He says the traumatizing experience caused him to faint.

Ravi Ragbir recalls the ordeal, “Even as they checked my vitals, they made me walk shackled to the ambulance. They were saying, you know — There were thousands of people you accompany me on the outside. Outside. They didn't want to see me deported. Wow. People were getting an arrested, including elected officials. I've been fighting my deportation since 2006. When they released me from detention in 2008, I continued to regularly check in with [ICE] routinely. But on January 11th, [2018] instead of sort of it being a routine check-in, the assistant field office director said to my attorney and my wife that they are going to take me away. They want to deport me. It became very traumatizing — traumatizing because you know, I was, I fainted. There were thousands of people there accompanying me on the outside and…and they were… they didn't want to see me deported.”

That day, as Ragbir sat inside an ambulance, his supporters protested outside. 18 demonstrators were arrested. In April 2019, a federal court granted Ragbir a stay of deportation because it found ICE violated his constitutional rights by targeting him because of his activism. Ragbir continues his ICE check-ins and lives with uncertainty around being deported. But he continues his advocacy as the Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition NYC, an interfaith group that helps undocumented immigrants facing detention or deportation.