By Verena Dobnik, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez has invited the wife of detained immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address.
Ragbir was in federal custody Saturday, several weeks after he was handcuffed and arrested during a routine check-in with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Velazquez, a New York Democrat, joined Ragbir's wife, Amy Gottlieb, and other elected officials Saturday at a rally in front of the Manhattan office building that houses ICE. That is where Ragbir was taken into custody on Jan. 11.
Three other Democratic members of Congress from New York showed up at the rally in support of Ragbir: Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Joe Crowley and Rep. Yvette Clarke.
They say the government targeted the 53-year-old native of Trinidad because of his activism as the head of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York that helps immigrants fight deportation.
The government says he should be deported because of a 2001 wire fraud conviction involving a New Jersey mortgage company where Ragbir worked that was caught up in a fraud scheme. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison, but is fighting to vacate the conviction in federal court in New Jersey, contending he was just an employee doing his job, unaware of any fraudulent activity.
Velazquez said the message from the rally to the Republican president, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE is, "We will not be intimidated."
She added, "think about it, here in America, our government is saying, if you stand up for your rights or speak out for your community, then you run the risk of being detained or deported."
The congresswoman said she plans to visit Ragbir on Monday at a jail in Goshen, New York, about 70 miles north of New York City.
The next day, his wife said she will "go proudly ... to what I'm sure will be a fascinating experience at the State of the Union address."
Associated Press radio correspondent Julie Walker contributed to this report.