Ragbir: Fear of Deportation a Public Health Crisis

Ravi Ragbir at the high pulpit in St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church. (Photo by Francesca N. Tate via Brooklyn Eagle)

Immigration rights activist Ravi Ragbir, who was released from detention last week and faces deportation this coming Saturday, Feb. 10, was invited to preach at the Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights on Feb. 4, Francesca Norsen Tate reports in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and received an honor as well.

The Rt. Rev. Lawrence Provenzano – bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island – named Ragbir as an ecumenical canon to the Diocese of Long Island.

In recognition of the tremendous ministry that you have provided, your prophetic witness and the sacrifice of your own life in the midst of this work, and that of your family, today it is my privilege to name you an Ecumenical Canon for Integration work in the Diocese of Long Island,” Bishop Provenzano said. “And with that title, Canon Ravi, comes the privileges, the rights and the protections of the Church. Sisters and brothers, help me welcome Canon Ravi Ragbir.”

The announcement came as a surprise, Tate writes, and elicited a standing ovation. Ragbir, 43, was born and in Trinidad and Tobago and is the executive director the New Sanctuary Coalition.

In his homily, Ragbir blended his own experience with the message from the day’s appointed Gospel selection: Mark 1:29-39, in which Jesus casts out demons and heals illnesses in a community.

“We have a tangible sickness of fear,” Ragbir said. “We have children who are scared of deportation. When you have children who are in school, crying because who don’t know whether their parents are going to be home when they get back home, they cannot work, they cannot study, they cannot focus, they cannot learn, because every day they are worried about their parents, about their lives.”

Ragbir said this is a fear through which he has personally lived, calling it a public health crisis.

“Our children and also our adults are debilitated,” he said. “They are weak because of the fear.”

According to the New Sanctuary Coalition, Ragbir is scheduled for deportation on Feb. 10, and has a hearing on Feb. 9 which may delay his deportation. The Coalition is urging people to support Ragbir by rallying at Foley Square on Feb. 10 – whether he ends up being deported that day or not – and sending Immigration and Customs Enforcement the message that “You Can’t Deport a Movement.”

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