Judge rules illegals have constitutional right to ‘say goodbye’ to family
Illegal immigrants snared by deportation officers have “the freedom to say goodbye” to their families, a federal judge in New York ruled Monday, ordering the government to release a prominent activist to his family.
Judge Katherine B. Forrest, an Obama appointee to the bench, said the government was following the law when it picked up Ravidath Lawrence Ragbir, the illegal immigrant. But she said there were “larger, more fundamental” rights at stake that were trampled on.
“In sum, the court finds that when this country allowed petitioner to become a part of our community fabric, allowed him to build a life with and among us and to enjoy the liberties and freedom that come with that, it committed itself to allowance of an orderly departure when the time came,” she wrote. “By denying petitioner these rights, the government has acted wrongly.”
She becomes the latest federal district judge to delve deeply into immigration – an area Congress has said belongs to the separate immigration court system and to appellate judges, not district judges.
Other cases are raging over deportations of Iraqis and Indonesians, with federal judges taking unprecedented steps to stop deportations and rule on individual cases.
The Justice Department declined to comment on Monday’s decision.
Judge Forrest said her ruling doesn’t mean Mr. Ragbir is safe from deportation.
He has been ordered removed by an immigration court, and that stands.
Immigrant-rights groups said they’re still hoping to fight that, though for now they praised Judge Forrest’s ruling.
“Ravi and other immigrant rights leaders have been viciously targeted by ICE for speaking out against the injustices of our immigration system. This is a naked attempt to intimidate us into silence, but we will only get louder,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
Mr. Ragbir was a legal immigrant who earned status in 1994, but who was convicted of loan fraud. After completing his sentence he was turned over to deportation officers for removal.
He was in Homeland Security’s custody for nearly two years before being released in 2008 on what’s known as an order of supervision, meaning he was still in loose federal custody.
He has been fighting for legal status in the years since, and had been regularly checking in with deportation officials as required by his supervision order.
He was told he could be deported at any time once travel documents were obtained, but was told the deportation would be “orderly.”
In the meantime, he’s become an immigrant-rights activist, working on a Homeland Security-issued work permit.
Earlier this month, Homeland Security ended its yearslong delay of deportation and detained Mr. Ragbir, saying it was going to enforce his deportation.
Judge Forrest said immigration has become such a mess, with so many competing agendas, that it’s now “a corn maze” to be navigated.
She said the government had correctly read the maze. But she said ruled the outcome unconstitutional.
“It ought not to be – and it has never before been – that those who lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust, regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken without notice from streets, home and work. And sent away,” the judge wrote.
“We are not that country; and woe be the day that we become that country under a fiction that laws allow it.”
©2018 The Washington Times. Displayed with permission.
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