FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2018
Ravi Ragbir, executive director of New Sanctuary Coalition and an internationally known leader of the immigrant rights movement, will receive one of the Episcopal Church’s highest honors and deliver the homily at the main service at historic St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights at 11:15am this Sunday, February 4.
The Bishop’s Cross will be awarded Sunday to Mr. Ragbir by the Right Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, which covers Brooklyn and Queens as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties. The Bishop’s Cross is a rare honor given to individuals in recognition of “exceptional service to the Church and to the community it serves,” a spokesperson for the diocese said.
Numerous faith leaders, political leaders and community leaders from around the New York area are scheduled to attend the service.
Bishop 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. For our diocese and the wider church community, this is an opportunity to give him thanks for his extraordinary witness.”
The Rev. John Denaro, Rector of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church says, “It is this church’s call and our privilege to welcome Ravi into our sanctuary and to stand with him in the pursuit of justice for all vulnerable immigrants.”
Mr. Ragbir’s sermon and the extraordinary award come as the escalating mistreatment of immigrants in America has become a central national issue. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has focused in recent weeks on detaining and deporting leaders and activists within the growing immigrant-rights movement. At least five movement leaders have been swept up recently by ICE in what is widely seen as an effort to silence popular opposition to the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies.
At its 151st convention, Bishop Provenzano’s diocese in November overwhelmingly passed a resolution titled “On Long Island Becoming a Sanctuary Diocese.” The resolution urges all the diocese’s congregations “to consider providing sanctuary to immigrants and migrants” who are “targeted by xenophobia, racism and discrimination.” The Long Island diocese has long been a supporter of New Sanctuary Coalition, which is a 10-year-old, faith-based organization joining some 150 houses of worship and thousands of citizens and non-citizens of all faiths to support and protect immigrants threatened by detention and deportation. The same convention designated St. Ann’s a “pro-cathedral” — essentially, a second cathedral of the diocese and seat of the bishop — to better address the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, both of which have large immigrant populations.
Mr. Ragbir was detained by ICE at a regular check-in on January 11, 2018, placed under heavy guard in shackles, and was immediately rushed to a plane and flown to a cell in Miami, FL, to be deported. He was released on January 29 from immigration jail by a federal judge in New York who expressed “grave concern” over charges that ICE is misusing U.S. immigration laws to silence immigrant-rights leaders in violation of the First Amendment. The federal court order ended Mr. Ragbir’s illegal detention by ICE, but he still faces a legal fight against deportation—a battle he has been waging for more than a decade. His 2006 deportation order is based on a 2001 conviction for wire fraud — a conviction that Mr. Ragbir’s lawyers are challenging in court. A hearing on that matter is scheduled in early February in New Jersey. An appeal of the deportation order itself is pending before the U.S. Bureau of Immigration Appeals
Mr. Ragbir’s case has attracted media attention around the world and his supporters include more than 30 members of Congress, dozens of city and state elected officials, 1,800 community organizations and thousands of individuals. Vigils, prayers and demonstrations have been held almost daily for Mr. Ragbir and for all the other immigrants facing detention and deportation by ICE.