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2nd Cir.: First Amendment Claim Trumps Deportation Order

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 30, 2019 6:00 AM

Ravi Ragbir, facing deportation, learned that freedom of speech is freedom indeed.

Ragbir was scheduled to be deported following his convictions for wire fraud and conspiracy. He won repeated stays, however, and became an outspoken activist on immigration issues until his last stay expired. Frustrated immigration officials then deported him. In Ragbir v. Homan, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals said that's not how the First Amendment works.

First Amendment

Technically, the Second Circuit blocked Ragbir's deportation until at least January 2020 while he presses his claim that he was deported to stop his activism. His "speech implicates the apex of protection under the First Amendment, the judges said. "His advocacy for reform of immigration policies and practices is at the heart of current political debate among American citizens and other residents," Judge Christopher Droney wrote for the appeals court.

A native of Trinadad and Tobago, Ragbir became a permanent resident of the United States in 1994. He was convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in 2001, and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Immigration and Enforcement detained him after he was released, and an administrative law judge entered an order of removal based on his convictions. However, Ragbir received four stays of removal and continued to live and work in the U.S. One of his main activities was speaking out against immigration enforcement. He said they retaliated and deported him in January 2018.

'We're the Nazi Squad'

In its opinion, the Second Circuit quoted the words of an ICE official who complained about media coverage of the agency. "Nobody gets beat up in the news more than we do, every single day," said Scott Mechkowski, director the New York City office. "It's all over the place … how we're the Nazi squad, we have no compassion." Then Mechkowski warned Ragbir's activist group not to "make matters worse" by speaking up. That was enough for the appeals court and attorney R. Stanton Jones, who represented Ragbir.

"The Second Circuit correctly held that the First Amendment to our Constitution prohibits the government from openly and forcefully retaliating against political dissidents by deporting them, and the court further correctly held that Mr. Ragbir is entitled to pursue his First Amendment challenge in federal court," he said.

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