New York NY – NYC Council Members Jumaane Williams [D-45th District] and Ydanis Rodriguez [D-10th District] joined members of the Judson Memorial
Church on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to continue pushing for the release of immigrants’ rights leaders recently snatched by ICE agents and threatened with deportation.
The council members were among 16 others, including members of the clergy associated with Judson Memorial Church, who were busted last Thursday near the Javits Federal Building in Manhattan, protesting the arrests of Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, and Jean Montrevil, a co-founder of the immigrants’ rights organization.
“We were in the streets because we follow the best tradition of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and so many like him,” Council Member Williams said on Monday. “There are people who want to sanitize who Dr. King was, who want to sanitize his message. But let us be clear, he was an agitator, he was a disrupter; he wanted to disrupt the norm.”
Ragbir and Montrevil’s supporters insist that immigrants’ rights activists are being systematically targeted as a direct result of racist-fueled, anti-immigrant policies coming out of the Trump White House.
Until now, the City of New York, under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio, had been widely viewed as a so-called “Sanctuary City,” and committed to opposing the Trump administration’s blatantly racist crackdown on immigration from countries with large populations of black and brown peoples.
But on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Council Member Rodriguez challenged the veracity of that notion.
“We refuse to say that New York City is a Sanctuary City when we let ICE and Homeland Security in our streets,” the Manhattan legislator said.
Since its inception in 2007, the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City has advocated for immigration reform, aiding scores of immigrant workers fighting unjustified deportations.
“They’re just common folk looking for a better way of life; people who are here with families,” Pastor Juan Carlos Ruiz told LaborPress on Monday. “We are not
talking about people who are rootless — they’ve been in our communities for 10 or 20 years. They have families. They have expanded their roots. A lot of the people we work with, work in the restaurant industry, in construction — and a lot of them are just recently displaced from Honduras, Guatemala and Central America. They are fleeing the violence that you see there. They are coming here to seek refuge and safety.”
Although presently in ICE custody, Ragbir has had contact with supporters, and was able to relay a message to friends this week, saying, in part that the humanity of undocumented immigrants “is not dependent on a piece of paper.”
“We are not documented or undocumented, we are human beings,” Ragbir said in a statement. “This is a moment to mobilize — this is a moment to stop this.”
Ragbir’s wife, Amy Gottlieb, described her recent 1-hour meeting with her husband, which took place through a plexiglass window, as “dehumanizing” and an “abhorrent injustice.”
“We are going to get Ravi out of detention and we are going to get Jean — we hope — out of detention, somehow,” Gottlieb told supporters. “We [also] hope to get the thousands of people around the country that are locked up by ICE every single day, out of detention. We’re going to break down those walls — and this inhuman immigration detention system that is entirely driven by profit — and we are going to live in a world where people are treated with dignity and justice.”
Montrevil was taken into ICE custody prior to Ragbir, and leaves behind a 19-year-old daughter on the Dean’s List at Mercy College, as well as a 14-year-old son recently accepted into Brooklyn Technical High School.
Janay Cauthen, Montrevil’s ex-wife, said that her former partner’s persistent struggle with immigration authorities cost the couple their marriage.
“They tore down my marriage because [Jean] was very depressed, and depressed parents raise depressed children,” Cauthen said. But we refuse to allow our
children to suffer.”
Rev. Kaji Dousa, co-chair of the New Sanctuary Coalition, called on ICE officials to do the right thing and release the detained immigrants’ rights activists immediately.
“Fifty years after Dr. King was murdered by white supremacy and the patriarchy — we understand that the safe road is no longer viable. And we understand that we must resist,” Rev. Dousa said. “We are not afraid of you. We will not stand down. And when history looks back at the choices we have all made, it will be you — the deporters — who will be regarded with shame.”
Further defying critics who have accused both Williams and Rodriguez with political grandstanding, Council Member Williams said the following: “People ask me why I was there [protesting in the streets]. It could have been my mother or father, who came from Grenada. It could have been my brother, who was undocumented for sometime. It could have been any one of my constituents. And if you wait long enough, it could be you, too because they come for one in the morning and the rest at night.”