News & Politics

In Alarming New Move, ICE Is Now Going After Immigration Activists

A new lawsuit against ICE shows the agency's priorities have shifted.

Photo Credit: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Several immigration rights groups on Friday filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for “specifically targeting the most vocal immigration activists” in violation of the First Amendment.

“Defendants have investigated, surveilled, harassed, raided, arrested, detained, and even deported these activists in order to silence them,” the lawsuit, which was first reported by The Intercept, claims. “The Government’s targeting of activists on the basis of their core political speech is unfair, discriminatory, and un-American.”

Among the advocacy groups that filed the suit was the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, whose executive director, Ravi Ragbir, was one of several prominent activists to be detained last month. U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest later stayed Ragbir’s deportation, which she deemed “unnecessarily cruel.”

ICE then rescheduled his deportation for Saturday, February 10, but walked back its threat upon learning of the lawsuit.

In the past month, several immigration activists have lodged accusations against ICE similar to those in the lawsuit.

“I’ve no doubt that my political activity in support of immigrants held in detention centers has made me a target,” wrote one such activist, Maru Mora Villalpando, in YES! Magazine. “And I’m not the only activist who has been targeted in this way.”

“I have dedicated my life to the fight for immigrant justice, demanding an end to detention and deportation,” she added. “None of the usual triggers for deportation—contact with the police, raids, prior deportations—apply in my case. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement only knows about me because of my political work.”


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Brendan Gauthier is a freelance writer and nonfiction MFA candidate at Columbia University.