The Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling Thursday staying the deportation of immigrants' rights activist Ravi Ragbir, an outcome that has been supported by amicus briefs filed by the Rutgers Law School International Human Rights Clinic, and other groups.
Ragbir argued that the Trump Administration targeted him for deportation because he actively protested against the Administration's harsh immigration policies. The Second Circuit heard arguments on Monday centered on whether immigrants can be threatened with deportation for expressing political speech.
The Rutgers Law School International Human Rights Clinic first raised these free speech issues on Ragbir's behalf in January 2018 to stay his deportation. The district court referred to the clinic's free speech arguments five times during oral argument before issuing a stay of deportation on January 29. Since then, Ragbir filed an independent and new First Amendment claim based on the clinic's arguments.
"The First Amendment applies to everyone, not just citizens. It is unconstitutional for the government to target immigrants because of the content of their speech," said Professor Penny Venetis, the director of the human rights clinic, who, with her students, wrote the briefs in support of Ragbir. "This most recent federal court decision sends a clear message to the Administration that the federal courts are acting in accordance with their Constitutional duty to make sure that the Administration does not violate the law."
Some of the clinic students and Venetis attended the arguments at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City on Monday.
Ragbir is the Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, an interfaith network of congregations, organizations, and individuals, who support people resisting detention and deportation. He also is married to a Rutgers Law graduate Amy Gottlieb ’96, who is an associate regional director of American Friends Service Committee.
Ragbir, and other immigration advocates, spoke at a panel at Rutgers Law School in early October for its First Monday event, looking at the future of immigration issues in light of the start of the U.S. Supreme Court term. At that event, Ragbir said lawyers alone cannot resolve the attacks on immigrants, which including separating children from their parents, being abruptly picked up for deportation and detaining people in inhumane conditions. “This is a serious attack on our morals, principals, and human dignity,” he said.
To date, the International Human Rights Clinic has written four amicus briefs on Ragbir's behalf.The most recent amicus brief was filed in the name of Emilio Guttierez Soto, a Mexican journalist who is seeking political asylum, and was jailed in Texas for protesting the Trump Administration's inhumane immigration policies. The International Human Rights Clinic filed a habeas corpus claim on behalf of Guttierez Soto arguing that he was being unconstitutionally detained, for exercising his free speech rights.
Based on the clinic's advocacy Guttierez Soto was released from detention over the summer. He is now a Knight Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan.
“The Rutgers law clinics have been at the forefront of defending human rights for 50 years,” said Venetis. “We will continue to work on defending the human rights of the most vulnerable among us."