NEW YORK—The decision by a federal judge in New York City to order the immediate release of immigrants’ rights activist Ravi Ragbir is a welcome development in his case, though it does not mark the end of his ordeal or of the Trump administration’s efforts to silence immigrants’ rights activists, PEN America said today.

Ravidath “Ravi” Lawrence Ragbir is the Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. He became a lawful permanent resident in 1994, and lives in Brooklyn, NY. Released from immigration detention in 2008 after serving a two-and-a-half year criminal sentence, he has been fighting a deportation order since 2006 and has complied with all conditions imposed on him by his order of supervision, including electronic monitoring and regular check-ins. Ragbir was detained on January 11 during a weekly check-in with immigration agents, was taken to a detention center in Florida, and was later moved to a center in the New York metropolitan region. A number of public figures have protested Ragbir’s detention and called for his release, including United States Congresspersons Nydia M. Velazquez, Yvette D. Clarke, Adriano Espaillat, and Joseph Crowley.

In support of Ravi Ragbir, PEN America joined a “friend-of-the-court” brief authored by the Rutgers Law School International Human Rights Clinic, arguing that Ragbir has been detained because of his activism, in violation of his free speech and free expression rights as protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (which the Supreme Court has held applies to non-citizens,) as well as international human rights treaties to which the United States is a signatory.

In light of the Trump administration’s overtly hostile policies towards immigrants, and reports of a number of immigrants’ rights leaders being detained and deported for their activism, Ravi Ragbir’s detention not only violates his free expression rights but is evidently part of a concerted effort to silence immigrants’ rights activists and the broader movement calling for a humane and just immigration policy.

“We welcome the order to release Ravi Ragbir, though this in no way brings an end to his ordeal,” said Summer Lopez, PEN America Senior Director of Free Expression Programs. “The detention and deportation (or threat thereof) of immigrants’ rights activists under the Trump administration have raised serious concerns that those targeted are being punished for their speech and activism, silencing not only other activists but the millions of people affected by the Administration’s policies. We call on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to end this campaign of intimidation against immigration activists.”


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator:, 646-981-0685