|Ravi and Jani, the spouse of Jean Montrevil, who was deported earlier in the week.|
I saw Ravi on church last Sunday. Looking worried, we talked about his case and the check in coming up.
It seems like all of the city was at his last ICE check-in in March.
“I see a wall of love,” he declared, looking at a sea of supporters, including many from city council.
He didn’t seem as upbeat Sunday. We talked with Jani, the spouse of Jean Montrevil, who was deported earlier in the week. Our kids go to Sunday school together. Jani was busy drafting a petition. about his situation, calling for Scott Mechowski to Free Jean!
|Ravi with a heavy weight on his shoulders at Judson.|
It was hard to imagine this wasn’t going to be Ravi’s fate.
So we talked about his life and what might be in store for him during his own check in later in the week. Ravi looked worried, with good reason.
Reading about the raids of immigrants at the 7 Eleven stores this morning, I had a feeling Ravi was not going to have a good day.
“ICE agents serve an employment audit notice at a 7-Eleven in Los Angeles Wednesday. Agents raided 98 stores across the country.”
The attack on the poor, on outsiders feels unrelenting today.
This morning, I met many of the activists I know at Foley Square. Much of my congregation at Judson was there, as were, as well supporters of the New Sanctuary Movement, members of the Church of Stop shopping, various anarchists, Rise and Resisters.
We walked across the street, beginning the silent Jericho Walk around the Federal Building at Ravi went upstairs to eleventh floor for his check-in with members of the city council, his reverend, and wife.
Few of us were optimistic.
We walked around the building seven times.
“Can you believe we have to do this,” noted Jenny Heinz, a long-time activists, walking with Anne Shirazi.
By the sixth lap, we got a text that Ravi had been detained.
We expected it. But this chill of the day filled the air. Somber, we kept walking, holding hands surounding the federal building.
After the seventh lap, faith leaders led us in a prayer and scream.
Its one thing to act against a theoretical target. Its another to know your friend is being detained and taken away. Its very hard to feel that, very very hard. I can’t believe this is our America. I thought about the conversation I had with Ravi on Sunday. Its not like my family filled out any papers when we came, I thought. We just came, avoiding persecution. Now nativists were preventing others from enjoying the same freedoms they enjoy. America loses a bit of its soul every day.
“Stop!” Caroline pushed me as I got shaky.
Reverend Micah Bucey told everyone what had happened, that Ravi had been detained.
He passed a microphone to Jani, whose husband is being held in Miami as we speak.
“When I say immigrant rights, you say human rights?
Immigrant Rights” she screamed.
“Human rights,” responded.
“We’re gonna fight for immigrant rights,” she followed.
“When I see them rounding up people at 7 Eleven, it pisses me off,” she explained.
“My son spent his Sunday not playing games or watching tv. He was writing a petition for his dad. Mass deportations are a crime against humanity.”
Juan Carlos, co-founder the New Sanctuary Coalition asked everyone to get grounded and stomp our feet.
Corey Johnson, the speaker of city council, took the mic explaining that Ravi had been detained. He’d passed out when he heard the news. And was being taken to a hospital in an ambulance as we stood there. Please just cross the street to the ambulance taking him away, he implored the crowd.
Reps Johnson, Rodriguez, and Williams walked across the street to where the ambulance was coming out of the federal building. There was Ravi.
“We love you Ravi!” some screamed. Some of the faith leaders stood with their hands in the air, praying.
Jumaane Williams, of city council, stood with his hands up, blocking the ambulance. Ydanis Rodriguez, another council member, joined him. They were surrounded by others supporters, including Juan Carlos, filling the streets. Both council members had been at Ravi’s March check in.
As the ambulance moved, more and more people sat in front of it, only to be pulled away by the Department of Homeland Security officers, pushing and pulling them away.
The ambulance moved in front of city hall, its sirens blaring, as more and more people jumped in front, attempting to physically stop the deportation. No one knew where the ambulance was taking Ravi. But it appeared away from supporters.
The police moved to arrest Juan Carlos.
Williams grimaced in pain when he was detained by the police, bending over.
Rodriguez was detained. Police dragged him away along with Juan Carlos.
“Why are you being arrested?” I asked Williams, who has stood by Ravi for many of his check ins.
Williams looked at me, paused, and explained, “To resist, for freedom!”
"It was a full on street fight for three of four blocks," said Savitri D, of the Church of Stop Shopping.
"It was a full on street fight for three of four blocks," said Savitri D, of the Church of Stop Shopping.
Several members of the Church of Stop-Shopping and Rise and Resist were detained. A few of the arrestees including Al Smith and Monica Hunken, Ydanis Rodriguez (NYC Council), Carol Scott, Jumaane Williams (NYC Council), Jenny Heinz, Ann Shirazi, Sylver Pondolfino and Jamie Bauer, some eighteen in total.
“Power to the people!” the crowd began to scream. “No one is illegal.”
“No deportations, no nation!”
“Why are you being arrested?” I asked Heinz, sitting in the streets in hand cuffs.
“They need to be asked why they are arresting us” she replied.
As Williams was arrested, he mic checked.
“Mic check! When you check history. We will be right. We are Ravi! Resist! Freedom!”
“Why are you being arrested?” I asked my old friend Ann.
“I have no idea. I was simply expressing my constitutional rights.”
The Rude Mechanical Orchestra lead a chant:
“From Palestine to Mexico, all these walls have to go!”
“We want to thank all the freedom fighters,” Reverend Peter told the crowd.
He introduced City Councilman Brad Lander, who had been with Ravi up on the 11th floor in the Federal Building.
“While we are frustrated, we are not deterred. We went up to the 11th floor with Ravi, his lawyer, his preacher, and his wife Amy. They reviewed his appeal. Scott Mechowski made it clear they were taking a hostile approach. Ravi’s lawyer said there is no reason to take Ravi into custody now. He’s been legally checking in. They denied that plea. There is no reason to do that. Ravis ok, but when he got that news, he passed out. He’s going to the hospital now. The lawyers are filing appeals.”
The police arrested more people.
“NYC is a sanctuary city. We are wondering why they are arresting people,” noted one of the arrestees.
“There are so many cops,” noted Savitri D, who had been crying. “Its like the old days.”
“Release Ravi Now!” the crowd began to chant.
“We love you!” we reminded the arrestees. “We love you Ann! We love you Jenny! We love you Monica! We love you Micah!”
“We’re going to carry on,” noted Donna Schaper, of Judson, who’d been with Ravi. “They are trying to send a signal. But we won’t back down. We have a right to help immigrants!”
When I arrived home, I saw Kim Fraczek’s appeal.
Our valiant Pipeline fighters, Al Smith and Monica Hunken, were arrested this morning blockading a deportation of one of our dear friends and allies, Ravi Ragbir. They were arrested along with Ydanis Rodriguez (NYC Council), Carol Scott, Jumaane Williams (NYC Council), Jenny Heinz, Sylver Pondolfino and Jamie Bauer.
Video from Linda Sarsour HERE
Please do this immediately:
Please call the following ICE office:
NYC ICE Field Office Director: 212.238.4530
“Hello my name is ______, and I am requesting that ICE release Ravi Ragbir. A Number: 044-248-862. He was detained today in New York City. Ravi is a husband, father and a cherished community leader and we need him here in the United States. I ask that you release him and grant him a new stay of removal.”
Call Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: 212.486.4430
Senator Chuck Schumer: 212.688.6262
“Hello my name is ______, and I am calling about Ravi Ragbir. He has been detained by ICE today in New York City. A Number: 044-248-862. Ravi is a husband, father and a cherished community leader and we need him here in the United States. I ask that you meet with DHS secretary to release him and grant him a new stay of removal.”
They are taking out our immigrant leaders one by one. SAY NO!
Long-time permanent resident, community activist, father, and husband, Ravi Ragbir, faces permanent exile from his life in the U.S. Ravi’s immigration story began when he came to the U.S. from Trinidad in February 1991 on a visitor’s visa. In 1994, he became a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). His U.S. citizen daughter, Deborah, was born in 1995. A 15-year green card holder, Ravi was detained and ordered deported in 2006 by an immigration judge—without a hearing—based on a conviction for fraud, which he is currently seeking to vacate, based on factual and legal errors in his trial.
Through his own struggle to remain in the U.S., Ravi became active in supporting other immigrants who were facing similar challenges. Today, Ravi is a nationally recognized leader in the immigrant rights movement. Through his work, Ravi met, fell in love with, and eventually married Amy Gottlieb, a U.S. Citizen and fellow immigrant rights activist. Despite being eligible to readjust his status to permanent resident based on his marriage, the Board of Immigration Appeals denied Ravi’s request for an opportunity to be heard. Ravi is currently appealing this decision so that he can remain with his wife and daughter in the U.S., the place he has called home for over twenty years.
Ravi experienced the worst of the deportation system. Because of his criminal conviction, an immigration judge ordered Ravi deported without granting him a hearing on the issue, denying Ravi the opportunity to present evidence of his character and strong community ties. He was subject to mandatory, indefinite detention for years in New Jersey and Alabama, far from his community and his young daughter. Ravi’s case underscores one of the fundamental flaws of the current immigration system and a key reason we need to reform our deportation laws: the inability of judges to exercise discretion in a case based on the facts presented. Before changes to the law in 1996, judges had the discretion to weigh all of the relevant facts in a case to determine whether to deport an immigrant. Furthermore, immigrants like Ravi are often detained, without bond, in immigration jails across the country for prolonged and sometimes indefinite periods of time. For many people with criminal convictions, no matter how long ago or how minor, the deportation system does not recognize rehabilitation.
Ravi’s detention left his entire family feeling helpless and hopeless. Ravi’s daughter, Deborah, suffered the most through Ravi’s detention. She was deprived of her dad through her formative teenage years, and her family was torn apart. Since his release, Ravi thankfully has once again become a constant presence in Deborah’s life. But with his ongoing deportation case, she does not feel secure, knowing that her father can be deported if he loses his appeal. As she says, “[S]omewhere lurking in my mind, a voice tells me, ‘Well, don’t be happy—I mean your dad could be leaving tomorrow so get ready to say goodbye.’” Research indicates that one of the greatest factors for future success in a young woman’s life is a supportive and loving relationship with her father. Ravi wants to ensure Deborah’s success, and Deborah needs him to do so. The only way to make this happen is to allow Ravi to continue to be present in her life.
Upon his release from indefinite immigration detention, Ravi continued to challenge the immigration judge’s order. He took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. When the Court refused to hear his case, Ravi’s lawyers requested that ICE exercise prosecutorial discretion under a policy that allows certain immigrants with strong community ties to remain in the U.S. ICE granted Ravi’s request for prosecutorial discretion in the form of a one-year stay of removal, and has since given him the chance to renew his stay.
Ravi has become a vigilant and dedicated community educator, spokesperson, and advocate for immigrants. When Ravi was released from immigration custody, he immediately volunteered with Families for Freedom, a network of immigrants facing and fighting deportation. He went on to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors for the organization. He has trained other advocates, allies, community organizers, and elected officials about immigration issues and how to reform the deportation system. Ravi has met with members of Congress and Administration officials, and has testified in front of the New York City Council to discuss detention and deportation policy. In 2010, Ravi also became a full-time organizer for the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, one of the largest coalitions in the city focused on immigrant rights, with over 20 faith-based and supporting organizations, representing over 3,000 New Yorkers. Ravi is also part of the larger Trinidadian and Indian diaspora, and he volunteers his time to visit places of worship throughout the country, speaking at services about the impact of immigration policies on the community. For both his family and the communities that he works tirelessly for, Ravi’s deportation would be a tremendous loss and would create a void that can never be filled.
Ravi and his wife, Amy, another community leader who heads the American Friends Services Committee’s Immigration Program in Newark, live in Brooklyn and spend the majority of their time in the New York/New Jersey area, where their family—including Ravi’s daughter Deborah—also lives. Amy considers Ravi her “closest friend and confidant” and describes their relationship as “a deep connection” in which they “have come to rely on each other for support, friendship, for advice, and companionship.” Deportation would destroy the couple’s dream of building a family together. “We have created a life together,” Amy explains, “and the idea of living that life without my husband is devastating.”
There is overwhelming public support for Ravi to remain in the U.S. with his family and the community that so desperately needs him. Ravi’s case has received broad support from organized groups, community leaders, elected officials, and the general public. As faith-based community leaders like Reverend Dr. Donna Schaper of Judson Memorial Church note, “Our City and our nation would be much worse off if Ravi were to be deported. He has demonstrated the kind of character that we need more of. There is no doubt that he should be allowed to stay here with his family and community.”