New York, NY – Members of New York’s Congressional Delegation and immigrants rights advocates stood outside U.S. “Gestapo” headquarters at 26 Federal
Plaza on Saturday, denouncing the Trump administration’s racist-fueled deportation of immigrant working men and women, as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s suspect response to the sweeping arrests routinely occurring in the heart of New York City.
“We’re standing in front of a building that has become the headquarters of the Gestapo of the United States of America,” Congress Member Yvette Clarke [D-NY-9th District] told supporters of detained immigrants rights leader Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York.
Ragbir, a Trinidadian emigre who completed a sentence for wire fraud nearly two decades ago, was arrested earlier this month during a regularly scheduled check-in at the Javits Federal Building at 26 Federal Plaza — home of ICE [U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement]. He currently sits in an Orange County jail in Goshen, NY, anticipating a hearing this coming week to determine the legality of his detention.
The head of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, an interfaith network of organizations advocating for the rights of detained and deported immigrants, had originally been taken to the Krome Detention Center in Miami, Florida. There was a two-day period where even Ragbir’s wife Amy Gottleib, didn’t know where authorities had taken her husband.
About a week prior, New Sanctuary Coalition Co-Founder Jean Montrevil was detained under similar circumstances, and subsequently deported back to his native Haiti — a country he hadn’t been in since 1986.
“We know that Ravi Ragbir was wrongfully detained to begin with,” Congress Member Clarke continued. “ICE’s detainment of Ravi and other immigrants rights
leaders is reflective of Donald Trump’s callous immigrant agenda across this nation. And we will not sit quietly while his administration attacks hardworking people who contribute positively to our nation. This threat to immigration activists and families, is a threat to democratic values, the values we hold dear.”
Ragbir’s arrest two weeks ago, ultimately sparked a police action outside the Federal Building, in which New York City Council Members Jumaane Williams [D-45th District] and Ydanis Rodriguez [D-10th District], were both arrested along with 16 others challenging the immigrants rights leader’s detention.
The NYPD’s involvement in those arrests, as well as its role in helping ICE agents transport Ragbir out of the city, has immigrants rights advocates challenging New York City’s supposed status as a “Sanctuary City” steadfastly opposed to the Trump administration’s ugly immigration agenda.
“I would certainly hope that the City of New York is not complicit in any of these Trump or ICE actions,” Gottlieb said on Saturday. “We are concerned that there was a pretty strong NYPD presence the day Ravi was detained. He was actually hospitalized before they took him to Miami, because he passed out during the ICE interview. There was a very, very strong NYPD presence, including NYPD vehicles accompanying him on the way to Newark [International] Airport.”
Gottlieb and other immigrants rights activists have since met with both Mayor de Blasio and members of the City Council to discuss NYC’s “Sanctuary City” stance.
“Our team has been meeting with the mayor; we’ve been meeting with City Council [members], and we’re going to work as hard as we can to ensure that New York does remain a Sanctuary City and that it becomes even more of a Sanctuary City given everything that we’re seeing,” Gottlieb said.
Ragbir’s spouse of almost 10 years also added, “We cannot have the New York City Police Department or any New York City agencies complicit in the deportation of our immigrant communities, because what that does, is make our communities less safe. They are complicit when they are sending NYPD vehicles along with ICE to accompany my husband to possible deportation.”
Last year, Trump signed off on an executive order declaring jurisdictions that fail to fully cooperate with federal agents in deporting immigrants, will actually become ineligible to receive federal grants.
But in pointing out that the wholesale deportation of working men and women pushes people into the shadows and makes fighting crime more difficult, Congress Member Joseph Crowley [D-NY-14th District], said opposition to the Trump agenda “cannot be words — it has to be action.”
According to Gottlieb, Ragbir’s detention and pending deportation have left her feeling like the “victim of a state-sponsored crime.”
“I believe that we need to end the system of immigration detention,” Gottlieb said. “We should not be locking people up because of their [immigration] status. [Private] Companies are profiting off of the backs of immigrants and their families.”
Gottlieb is expected to attend this week’s State of the Union Address as the guest of Congress Member Nydia Velázquez [D-NY-7th District].
“This is not just about Ravi, this is about our American values,” Congress Member Velázquez said.
Beyond the targeted deportation of immigrants rights leaders including Ragbir and Montrevil, advocates fear the demise of the DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and TPS [Temporary Protective Status] programs, will result in U.S. immigration being cut in half.
Congress Member Clarke jeered the Trump administration for trying to “demonize and create hysteria around immigrants who are our neighbors, who are our friends and family, who are integral to the fabric of our nation.”
“There is not one of us that is not touched in some form or fashion by immigrants — whether it’s as entrepreneurs, as medical professionals, as legal professionals…as the folks who help us in our restaurant our hotels,” Congress Member Clarke told LaborPress. “It’s a travesty. It’s an excuse for the type of xenophobia, the type of racism that has gained a foothold through the likes of a Donald Trump.”
While ICE trumpets the “removal of fugitive aliens wanted for human trafficking” on its website, — Gottlieb, this week, said that the Trump administration is actually targeting “people who work in our restaurants, people who work in our shops, people who work in our offices, people who work everywhere.”