Immigration attorney Amy Gottlieb is still trying to come to terms with the possibility her husband, prominent immigration rights activist Ravi Ragbir, will no longer be able to live in the United States.
"I'm trying to push that away," said Gottlieb. "I don't know what that could possibly look like."
On Thursday, she was sitting with him in an immigration office in Lower Manhattan when she learned he would be detained for deportation.
"I tried to reason with them, right?" Gottlieb said. "And as it wasn't working, I felt more and more defeated."
The news, Gottlieb said, not only took her by surprise, but caused Ragbir to pass out.
"It was just sheer, you know, exhaustion and I think shock that this body just collapsed for a minute," Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb and Ragbir left together in an ambulance for a local hospital. But that's when a peaceful protest by Ragbir's supporters turned chaotic.
When the ambulance pulled away, some tried to block it, causing police to step in. Gottlieb and Ragbir saw the demonstrators through a window.
"That was so important to him, to know that he's not alone in this," Gottlieb said. "But we did see — we saw those same people out there, showing love for us, getting shoved."
18 people were arrested, including two city councilmen. Mayor de Blasio said his administration is investigating the NYPD's response.
Gottlieb said the ambulance dropped her off at a hospital but then pulled away and drove Ragbir to Bellevue. Gottlieb said she couldn't speak to him again until 6 a.m. Friday, when he called from a detention center in Miami.
Ragbir came to the U.S. from Trinidad 27 years ago but has been threatened with deportation since 2006 due to a wire fraud conviction.
He and Gottlieb were married seven years ago. She says she thinks his detainment is more about work as head of the New Sanctuary Coalition, which counsels and supports undocumented immigrants threatened with deportation.
"I could not help to think that was in response for some of the work that he's done," Ragbir said.
Ragbir's lawyers have obtained a temporary stay of removal. They're due in court Jan. 29, fighting to keep him from being deported.