Sunday Preview for March 12 from The Rev. Kaji Douša
March 9, 2017
I hope that you will join us in church this coming Sunday. It’s an important day, for we will be installing the Rev. Sydney Avent to serve as Pastor for Justice and Worship Life! I hope that you will join us as we offer this blessing.
Meanwhile, I want to share something with you. Today is a day that I have been dreading for weeks. I have woken in a cold sweat fearing the day, wondering how it would go. Today was the first time that my dear friend and colleague Ravi Ragbir, Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, had to appear for a check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (You can learn more about Ravi’s story here.) I have been accompanying Ravi to these check-ins for years. Each time he goes we hold our breath. But things are different now and this was Ravi’s first check-in under the new administration. My own fear and grief is nothing compared to what immigrant families endure. But it gives me a glimpse, a window into their experience.
Ravi invited me and 9 others to accompany him and his wife, Amy Gottleib today. We were joined by hundreds of protestors outside. Pastor Luis-Alfredo Cartagena, who has been working with New Sanctuary for years, helped to lead the Jericho Walk of prayer around the center. Pastor Hugo Moreno joined us, as did the Rev. Peter Heltzel, as photographed here.
Things got quiet as our smaller group entered the elevator. We were joined by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, Councilmembers Jumaane Williams, Ydanis Rodriguez and several other elected officials. Ravi’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper of Judson Church led the way.
As we learned the news, a group of us broke away from Ravi and went to work supporting Janice and Ramesh. He was already being held and prepared for arrest. Janice met with a new attorney. Their last two attorneys were unqualified and offered terrible legal advice. But, with the help of our own Stephanie Wilson, who stepped in to help submit the hundreds of pages of paperwork for the two motions we filed in Virginia with the Board of Immigration Appeals, we may be able to keep ICE from boarding Ramesh onto a plane to Granada.
Now, we have a chance to stand up for Ramesh. We are asking everyone to write a letter of support to Governor Cuomo asking him to pardon Ramesh for the offense that took away his green card. Many years ago, he was convicted of 3rd degree burglary (a nonviolent crime) and he served his time. Afterwards, he married, bought a home in Ozone Park, Queens, became a community leader. He was rounded up in an ICE raid a couple of years ago – well after he’d completed his prison term – that put him into the immigration system anew. They revoked his green card and he has since had orders of deportation. If Gov. Cuomo would pardon Ramesh, the reason for revoking his green card would disappear. We hope that this will help Ramesh and Janice to reunite.
He has been to our church’s manse, broken bread at our table as together we planned ways to support immigrants. He is a good man and he needs your support…tonight. We plan to deliver the pardon paperwork to Gov. Cuomo’s office tomorrow, and that works best with a groundswell of support.
If you have the time, I would be so grateful if you would write to Governor Cuomo, too. The text of my letter is below. Let him know who you are, where you live, why you believe that Ramesh should have this pardon from this ancient burglary offense.
Lent continues. I pray that you will join us in church on Sunday, when we will reflect on the kinds of things that can happen under the cover of darkness. Our text is John 3:1-17. It promises to be a powerful day. Bring a friend.