FAN 199.9 (First Amendment News) First Amendment Prohibits ICE from Retaliating Against Immigrant Rights Activists, Legal Groups Argue

NEW YORK (Sept. 11, 2018) — The First Amendment prohibits the government from retaliating against noncitizen activists for peacefully protesting the government’s immigration activities, according to an amicus brief filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, and the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center.“Immigration, including the treatment of noncitizens, has been a touchstone of political debate in the United States,” said Ramya Krishnan, staff attorney at the Knight Institute. “Allowing the government to deport noncitizens for criticizing the nation’s immigration policies would silence crucial voices on a political issue central to the national conversation, and enable a practice that the U.S. government has condemned in other countries around the world.”

Seth Wayne

Ravi Ragbir (credit: NY Daily News)

Ravi Ragbir, a prominent immigrant rights activist, filed suit to prevent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting him to Trinidad & Tobago after 25 years of living in the United States. According to the lawsuit, Ragbir v. Homan, it was Ragbir’s First Amendment-protected activism that motivated ICE to begin removal proceedings. Ragbir seeks an injunction preventing his removal on this basis and preventing governmental retaliation against other noncitizen activists for the exercise of their First Amendment rights. The district court denied the injunction, and that decision is now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

“The right to engage in peaceful advocacy and protest lies at the very heart of the First Amendment,” said Seth Wayne, a litigator at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection. “It’s therefore particularly concerning to see the government retaliating against activists by seeking to remove them from the country as a way to silence them. We’re proud to stand alongside the Knight Institute and the MacArthur Justice Center to defend essential First Amendment rights.”

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2 Responses

  1. Brett Bellmore says:

    Quoting the decision, ” In Ragbir’s case, retaliation for speech cannot serve as a but-for cause of his removal from the country because the order of removal was lawfully entered and was fully enforceable prior to the formation of the alleged retaliatory animus. ”

    If true, this appears to be decisive: While he couldn’t be deported in retaliation for speech, if he was already slated for deportation before the speech, uttering speech that might under other circumstances result in retaliation can’t transform the preexisting action against him into retaliation. You can’t stop an action against yourself on the basis that it’s retaliation for something you did after the action began.

    The factual question of whether the proceedings started before the speech seems key.

  2. Gabor says:

    I am an immigrant & former refugee. The USA is the country that took us in, in our time of need. We waited in line to enter legally, followed US laws, and learned English. Mr. Ragbir is NOT an immigrant but a migrant. He is a foreign citizen violating immigration laws. He can be arrested or deported anytime. He should go to Trinidad if he wants to protest against his country