On Monday Judge Forrest ordered the release from custody Ravidath Ragbir, an alien who ICE had detained and was preparing to deport. Judge Forrest twice notes that the government was in complete conformity with statutory law: “The Court in fact agrees with the Government that the statutory scheme—when one picks the path through the thicket in the corn maze—allows them to do what was done here.” And: “The Court agrees that the statutory scheme governing petitioner’s status is properly read to allow for his removal without further right of contest.”
This should be the end of the matter then, shouldn’t it?
Not to Judge Forrest, who offers us this flourish of “legal reasoning”:
There is, and ought to be in this great country, the freedom to say goodbye. That is, the freedom to hug one’s spouse and children, the freedom to organize the myriad of human affairs that collect over time. It ought to be—and it has never before been—that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subject to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust ... regimes where those who have lived long in a country may be taken without notice from streets, home and work. And sent away.
Methinks Judge Forrest is angling for this year’s Anthony Kennedy Award for Most Emotive Judicial Writing. Prof. David Bernstein of Scalia Law School calls Judge Forrest’s opinion “the most lawless judicial decision I think I’ve ever read.”
By the way, who is Ragbir? The Washington Post yesterday filled in some of the blanks:
Ragbir is the director of the immigrant advocacy group New Sanctuary Coalition in New York, a collection of 150 faith-based organizations. He became a lawful U.S. resident in 1994. In 2000, he was convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy for accepting fraudulent loan applications while working at a mortgage lender. [Yet Judge Forrest says Ragbir has lived in the country “without incident.”]After serving a prison sentence, he was ordered deported based on his conviction. He spent about two years in detention but was released under supervision in 2008 while his case moved through immigration courts. Over the following decade, he became a prominent voice in New York’s immigrant community, testifying before the city council and once meeting with President Barack Obama’s transition team to discuss immigration policy, according to his attorneys.
In other words, Ragbir has been slated for deportation for nearly 10 years. Seems like that was plenty of time to arrange to say goodbye and get his affairs in order.
Professor Bernstein labels this "the most lawless decision he's ever read", but judge Forrest has plenty of competition, including her peers who have been so busy annulling the President's lawful authority to exercise his executive powers.
Still, Forrest is certainly in the running.