Immigrant-rights leader honored as ‘D day’ looms

Activist Ravi Ragbir, right, was presented with the Bishop’s Cross — from the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island — by Bishop Lawrence Provenzano last Sunday. Photos by Tequila Minsky

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | The days are counting down until Sat., Feb. 10, when immigrants-rights activist Ravi Ragbir is to report to ICE, to be deported, unless circumstances change.

Since his Jan. 29 release from federal detention in Goshen, NY, Ragbir has attended the president’s State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., walked the weekly — seven times around 26 Federal Plaza, at Broadway and Worth St. — Jericho Walk, given numerous media interviews, and was also given an exceptional honor.

This past Sunday, Ragbir received the Bishop’s Cross, bestowed by Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, at St. Ann and The Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights.  With this honor, the church recognizes Ragbir’s work on behalf of persecuted immigrants.

Provenzano said, “As Christians, we are called to serve the most vulnerable among us. Ravi’s dedication to those affected by unjust immigration policies — even at great personal risk — is an inspirational example of how to live out that call.”

This is the church giving him thanks for “his extraordinary witness,” Provenzano said.

The Long Island diocese has long been a supporter of the 10-year-old, faith-based New Sanctuary Coalition. The mission of the coalition — comprised of about 150 houses of worship and thousands of citizens and noncitizens of all faiths — is to support and protect immigrants threatened by detention and deportation. Ragbir is the group’s executive director.

The Bishop’s Cross from the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

In the last few weeks, there has been an escalation of detentions of immigrants, and their mistreatment has become a central national issue.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has swept up at least five movement leaders recently, in what is widely seen as an effort to silence popular opposition to the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies.

On Sunday, Ragbir was also the guest preacher prior to his receiving the Bishop’s Cross.

He spoke about sickness, the trauma of the children who can sense family stress when a member is vulnerable to deportation.  “Even if not discussed, they can feel it,” he said. “This affects how they work, write, study, learn.”

A part of the service includes fellowship.

He told the congregants that he had been living in fear for the past 12 years — but that he kept it locked it up inside, so he could continue to do his work.

Despite all that has transpired in the last three weeks, he said, “I don’t have to be afraid of them. I found out they are afraid of me — because of you. Afraid of me because of the community that has stepped up.”

He also mentioned how the ICE officer — so bent on deporting him — after processing Ragbir’s release, drove him up to Judson Memorial Church in the Village, where supporters were waiting to welcome him back.

“It was cold out,” Ragbir noted. “That was a kind act.”

Ragbir believes that all the “silent witnessing” of the faith-based and other supporters is touching some whose work involves these immigration proceedings.

“Inside, they’re in turmoil,” he assured. “They know the law is wrong, and that’s their job.”

Bishop Provenzano meeting with immigrant activist Ravi Ragbir prior to the Bishop’s Cross ceremony.

Ragbir, who has been on “Deportation Row” for 12 years, as he put it, was whisked to Miami after a Jan. 11 check-in with ICE at 26 Federal Plaza. Legal appeals brought him back to New York State and subsequently out of detention, in order for him to get his affairs in order and say goodbye to his family here.

On Feb. 6, Congressmember Nydia Velázquez introduced H.R. 4937, a private immigration bill, on the floor of the House of Representatives, which, if signed, would give Ragbir a path to permanent immigration status. The bill would only apply to him and no one else.

“The outrage after Ravi’s detention by ICE is a testament to his status as a community pillar,” Velázquez noted.

A rally at Foley Square has been called for Sat., Feb. 10, at 9 a.m., when Ragbir has been ordered to arrive at ICE for deportation.

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