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Arnold & Porter Obtains Free Speech and Immigrant Rights Victory in Second Circuit Appeal for Ravi Ragbir

April 29, 2019

On April 25, 2019, Arnold & Porter secured an important and high-profile free speech and immigrant rights victory on behalf of leading immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Ragbir, who founded the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, has lived in the US for more than 25 years. His wife and daughter are both US citizens. For more than a decade, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) expressly allowed Ragbir to live and work in the US notwithstanding a 2006 final order of removal based on a 2001 conviction. However, that changed after Ragbir emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of the US government's immigration policies and ICE's enforcement actions.

At a routine check-in with ICE in January 2018, Ragbir was detained, without warning, and flown to Florida in an unusual effort to deport him the next day. Ragbir's longtime immigration lawyers from the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic secured his release from detention, but ICE ordered him to report for deportation just days later.

Within a week, the Arnold & Porter team prepared a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction asserting that ICE's attempt to deport Ragbir in retaliation for his protected political speech violates the First Amendment. One day before Ragbir's scheduled deportation, the US government consented to a temporary stay pending decision on the preliminary injunction motion. In May 2018, a New York district court denied a preliminary injunction and dismissed Ragbir's First Amendment claims. It concluded that a federal statute barred jurisdiction over the case, and that the First Amendment in any event does not prohibit selective immigration enforcement of the sort alleged by Ragbir.

The Arnold & Porter team appealed, and after granting a stay of removal pending resolution of the appeal, the Second Circuit on Thursday ruled in Ragbir's favor, reversing the district court's decision. It held that deporting Ragbir based on his political speech would be sufficiently "outrageous" to violate the First Amendment. As for the federal statute stripping jurisdiction, the Second Circuit held that it violates the Constitution's Suspension Clause and therefore the courthouse doors must remain open to Ragbir's claim.

The Arnold & Porter team was led by partner Stanton Jones, and included Ada Añon, David Bergman, Upnit Kaur Bhatti, Emily Newhouse Dillingham, John Freedman, Daniel Jacobson, William Perdue, Sally Pei, Andrew Tutt, and Stephen Wirth. Perdue argued the stay motion in the Second Circuit, and Jones argued the merits.