Mayor de Blasio urged the feds not to deport immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir — as his police department faced grilling on their conduct at a protest sparked by Ragbir’s arrest.
In a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office director Thomas Decker Wednesday, de Blasio said the “beloved New York City community leader” should get to stay.
Ragbir was released from federal custody on a judge’s order, but still faces deportation as soon as Saturday.
“In his more than 20 years as a lawful permanent resident in the United States, Mr. Ragbir has made significant contributions to the city’s civic life and has been widely recognized for his work as a speaker, educator, and organizer on issues related to immigrant rights,” de Blasio wrote.
Meanwhile, City Council members probed NYPD brass on their handling of the January protest where demonstrators including two Councilmen said they were violently arrested.
“The response was overwhelming force,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), one of those arrested.
NYPD legislative affairs director Oleg Chernyavsky said when the protest grew larger than expected, the Strategic Response Group was called in to help control the crowd, and arrested protesters who were blocking an ambulance that was carrying Ragbir.
He denied cops had responded at the request of ICE, or coordinated with ICE during the protest.
“There certainly was absolutely no coordination with ICE...We took enforcement action based on violation not of immigration law, but violations of laws of the state of New York and local laws,” he said. “It’s irresponsible to allege that we coordinate on immigration enforcement.”
Williams didn’t buy that, saying cops actions in clearing the crowd helped ICE carry out the arrest. “You can pretend it didn’t happen,” he said. “What happened on that day was some sort of coordination. Period.”
“What happened that day was the enforcement of local law,” Chernyavsky shot back.
He said that after the ambulance with Ragbir left the scene, cops went to the wrong hospital because they didn’t know where it was headed. They later found out from city EMS that it had gone to Bellevue, and escorted the vehicle from there to the Holland Tunnel.
Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) hit the NYPD for that move.
“I don’t see one iota of reason to believe that there was a public safety risk,” he said. “Just say we screwed up. We should not have provided an escort.”
After the earlier protests, Chernyavsky said police went to the hospital and then drove to the tunnel because they believed there might be more demonstrations — even though that did not happen. He wouldn’t say whether NYPD would give such escorts in the future, saying it would be decided case by case.
“Based on the public safety threat that was created downtown, we felt the need to be present at the hospital in the event that the protest would continue to that location,” he said. “Hindsight is great.”