“I remember when we used to sit
Inna government yard in Trench Town,
Obaserving the ‘ypocrites
As they would mingle with the good people we meet.
Good friends we have, good friends we’ve lost
Along the way.
In this great future, you can’t forget your past,
So dry your tears, I say.
Everything’s gonna be all right!
No, woman, no cry.
Woman, little sister, don’t shed no tears,
No, woman, no cry.”
“No Woman No Cry” – Robert Nesta Marley
When President Donald Trump used social media to amplify an immigration policy saying “we have some bad hombres here and we’re going to get them out,” his tweet resonated with US citizens as well as with vulnerable green card holders because many comprehended that the former reality television celebrity wasn’t just referring to Mexicans that illegally cross the borders.
Amy Gottlieb, an American citizen fully understood the talking point of a campaign message that became more than rhetoric when the former Republican unlikely became triumphant after a national election and during weeks of his inauguration issued an executive order to “Make America Great Again” by signing an enforcing document that resulted with Caribbean nationals gripped with fear of being rounded up, raided and summoned to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“I was so devastated on so many levels,” Gottlieb said. “I knew that this new wave of anti-immigrant sentiment and anti-immigrant policies were going to impact us directly.”
Gottlieb’s husband is a Trinidad and Tobago national named Ravi Ragbir. She considers him 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.” “We have created a life together,” Gottlieb said, “and the idea of living that life without my husband is devastating.”
Ragbir is executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. He is also associated with the Indian-Caribbean diaspora.
He legally immigrated to the United States from the twin island in 1991. Arriving on a visitor’s visa, three years later he changed his status to become a green card holder. Ragbir’s unfortunate engagement with the US immigration system began in 2000. The permanent resident was convicted for wire fraud after the mortgage company that he worked for was investigated for fraudulent loan applications. Because he maintained that he was a low-level employee — unlike many of his fellow workers who plead — he decided to take his case through the judicial system. That was a major setback because he lost and was found guilty. Sentenced to five years in jail, he was released from prison after serving three. The remaining two years of his time was spent in numerous federal immigration detentions pending deportation.
Ragbir was released in 2008 under very strict conditions of supervision.
In addition to wearing an ankle monitor, the father of a 23-year-old daughter named Deborah was required to check in with immigration officials three times per week.
It was then that he immersed himself in volunteering and community work. According to associates he displayed dedication, professionalism and was ultimately hired to lead the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City.
An expert with accompaniment training, Rigbar schooled immigrants on how to maneuver through the minefield he had explored. He also gave insightful lessons on how to better report to ICE by enlisting friends and family members for support.
Visiting places of worship throughout the country, speaking at services about the impact of immigration policies on the community Ragbir helped to empower hundreds maybe thousands of otherwise hopeless individuals.
His repute placed him among some of the nation’s best-known advocates of Civil Rights for immigration reform.
Throughout the years he has relentlessly worked with mostly desperate immigrants while complying with immigration demands.
Six years ago, ICE officials granted him a stay of removal, exercising discretion to defer his deportation. Instead of reporting three-times weekly, they eased the burden by extending periods to biannual reports.
In addition he secured a deferment through 2018.
Pres. Barack Obama’s determination was that ICE should prioritize deportations of violent criminals. During his tenure he allegedly deported 3.1 million undocumented immigrants, more than any other president.
Rigbar has said that Pres. Obama has deported more people than the population of Staten Island.
Trump’s decree superseded his predecessor’s guidance — demanding that anyone convicted of any crime is a priority for deportation. It also adds that anyone ICE deems to be a threat to public safety is now ripe for deportation.
“We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said on Feb. 23.
“The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise,” the president tweeted.
Last week Rigbar obeyed an order to check-in with (ICE).
Unsure as to whether he would be deported, the father and husband boldly faced his fear and walked into the federal building located at 26 Foley Square.
But he was not alone.
Several politicians entered the center with him.
Protesters marched around the Manhattan building through the hour-long appointment, carrying signs bearing slogans such as “Refugees are welcome!” “This Rabbi Rallies With Immigrants” and “Not one more deportation.”
Ragbir entered the building with the support of members of the clergy, an inter-faith crowd of rabbis, ministers, priests and leaders, attorneys, civic leaders, educators, politicians including Senator Gustavo Rivera, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilman Daniel Dromm, Councilman Jumaane Williams and Councilman Ydanis A.Rodríguez.
Supporters marched quietly seven times around the edifice located adjacent to the African Burial Ground. Allegedly adhering to a Biblical reference known as the Jericho Walk, they silently paced as if with reverence to the cause of liberation.
“It is biblical. It’s in a story in the Bible,” Rigbar explained, “where they couldn’t defeat a city. And God told them, ‘Well, you cannot defeat the city by army, but you follow my instructions, and you will win.’ So they were told to walk around seven times around the city. And after seven times, the walls came tumbling down.”
On this occasion, the Federal building did not collapse but after a prolonged period Rigbar walked out to cheers — a temporary reprieve at the very least.
“We have done it around 26 Federal Plaza. We’ve also done it around the Supreme Court. Five hundred people have walked around the Supreme Court. We have walked around Congress. We have walked around the Senate building. In silence. And, when the guards or the officers see us, they don’t know what to take of — what to think about us, because we’re not saying a word, but you know we’re there for a purpose. “
“You would think that I would be happy coming back out and I am happy to be back here with my family, to sit with you, to sing with you, to talk to you — yes, I am,” an emotional Ragbir, said afterward.
“But I have to go through this again,” he added.
Ragbir’s lawyer, Alina Das, said her client would have to go back in one month and in order to attempt to secure a travel document.
“To see the tears streaming down her (Ragbir’s wife) face as we exited to know what it means—both that Ravi was able to come out but that he has to go right back in again in one month just demonstrates how horrific the system can be,” Das said. “And that we still hope that people will do the right thing, that people will be given discretion, that there will be due process and that people like Ravi will be allowed to remain with us.”
Ragbir said Trump’s election indicated the worst is to come for immigrants and said that if nothing was changing for him, then he “shouldn’t be checking in next month.”
Ragbir’s wife vowed she and her husband would “take back control” of their lives.
When asked about his experience he said:
“I had no feelings, because if I was going to feel something, I was going to feel terror, I was going to feel anxiety. And to feel that and be able to work, be able to function, was impossible. And I couldn’t allow myself to curl up in a corner and die, which is where they want us to be. I had to continue doing the work and continue to share the experience, so that as the privileged person that I am, meaning that I can go back to Trinidad without feeling that fear that I could be targeted, as other countries and other immigrants face, also I’m able to speak, and I also have community support. So I’m privileged, and I use this opportunity to highlight that situation. Because every minute that goes past, you are thinking that this is the day. And you’re sitting next to people who are facing that same trauma. We feel that fear. And you sit down, and you see the child and the wife, who may have accompanied them, and the tears and the heartbreak that is happening because they are being ripped apart. So, it is—it is hard for me, as a person, to see that, all while I’m going through it myself, but this is why we have had the accompaniment training. So we want people to see that, so they can take it back out and force and push for true reform, where people can live in dignity without that fear.”
Just last month, the Caribbean national was recognized with the Immigrant Excellence Award by the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators. Presented to worthy individuals who demonstrate “deep commitment to the enhancement of their community” Rigbar was distinguished.
On April 11, Ragbir will have to return to the ICE office. The politicians, faith leaders and activists that accompanied him on March 9 will be back, too.
Meanwhile at this juncture in Pres. Obama’s first 100 days of presidency, his national approval rating for performance was at 68 percent.
Pres. Trump’s is vaulting rapidly and now stands at 40 percent. However, with executive orders signed during the first half of his 100 days in office creating deep divisions throughout the nation the next 50 could either see those numbers plummet or soar.
Catch You On The Inside!