"There is, and ought to be in this great country, the freedom to say goodbye."
A Manhattan federal judge today slammed the Trump administration for the arrest and deportation of an immigration activist, saying the process resembles the actions of "regimes we revile as unjust."
"We are not that country; and woe be the day that we become that country under a fiction that laws allow it," Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York wrote in the case of Ravi Ragbir.
Judge Forrest released Ragbir today so he can get his affairs in order and say goodbye to his family before being deported to Trinidad & Tobago. Her opinion is considered by supporters to be a small victory in Ragbir's case.
Ragbir was unexpectedly detained on January 11, when ICE officials told him that his reprieve from deportation would not be extended.
Ragbir, who is subject to a 2006 order of deportation based on a felony wire fraud conviction, originally came to the U.S. on a visa in 1991 and is married to a U.S. citizen. Forrest, who was appointed to the bench in 2011 by President Barack Obama, said the government was "unnecessarily cruel" in arresting him at a check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, then putting him on a plane to a jail cell in Miami.
In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest wrote:
There is, and ought to be in this country, the freedom to say goodbye. That is, freedom to hug one's spouse and children, the freedom to organize the myriad of human affairs that collect over time. It ought not to be–and it has never before been–that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associated with regimes we revile as unjust, regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken away without notice from streets, home, and work. And sent away. We are not that country; and woe be the day that we become that country under a fiction that laws allow it. We have a law higher than any that may be so interpreted-and that is our Constitution.
[…]Having carefully reviewed the submissions and entire record in this matter, and having heard the parties, the Court is convinced that it must grant the petition for habeas corpus. Constitutional principles of due process and the avoidance of unnecessary cruelty here allow and provide for an early departure. Petitioner is entitled to the freedom to say goodbye. Accordingly, it is hereby ordered that petitioner shall be immediately released from custody.
Read the the full text of the judge's opinion.
RELATED: By Rabgir's wife, 'ICE Detained My Husband for Being an Activist.'
SDNY Judge Katherine Forrest is not known as a firebrand but man oh man is she smoked at federal officials for abrupt detention/ deportation of immigration activist https://t.co/hNXlCaT972
— Alison Frankel (@AlisonFrankel) January 29, 2018
Judge slams Trump deportations, invoking "The freedom to say goodbye" and boot to be disappearsd in the style of "regimes we revile" https://t.co/XgvGdZUoJx
— Philip Gourevitch (@PGourevitch) January 29, 2018
[ PHOTO: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS]