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“Ravidath Ragbir versus Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions, III”: Remarks by Rev. Kaji Douša at Rutgers Law School

The Rev. Kaji Douša is Senior Minister of Park Avenue Christian Church offered the following at the “Justice for Ravi” rally at Rutgers Law School
Once upon a time, I was neutral on immigration.

Quite frankly, I hid behind “the law” to excuse my inaction.

My friend Ravi Ragbir, taught me – and, leading the Sanctuary movement, all of New York City – to rethink my position on “the law”.

After all, as Ravi gently reminded me and so many others, THE LAW – as originally conceived in these lands – wanted me to understand myself to be a fraction of a human.

For the past 10 years, I have watched Ravi as he has refused to let any of us hide behind naïve assumptions about the law and its selective application.

For the past 10 years, I have also watched Ravi as he has helped immigrants to:

stand in their power.

As he’s tried to teach us how to make the law just.

The unjust law is pulling out all of the stops to prevent Ravi and our leaders.

Our government decided they were too dangerous.

Right now they think that they’re stopping them.

And the unjust law is doing the work of terrorists in our communities:

evoking terror.

The Scriptures I study so closely are filled with proclamations from angels that begin, quite curiously:

Fear not.
Do not fear.

A dear colleague, Neil Cazares Thompson said that we need to understand the angels properly.

They weren’t saying do not be afraid of ICE. A fool stares down a weapon without fear.

So be afraid of the ones who would destroy all that is good.

But don’t get stuck there.

“Be afraid of,” Rev. Neil said. “But don’t be afraid to do something about it.”

There are choices everywhere. Opportunities to resist.

As one my personal sheroes, Sally Yates put it:
“you can either glide across this world or you can impact it.”

Ironically, gliding leaves us stuck at what we’re afraid of.

That impact lives in the realm of the courageous.

My cousin Diara Holmes put it to me like this:

“In the seminal civil rights cases–the ones we should learn about by 8th grade… the plaintiffs didn’t win those cases because of their wealth or social status. They had the smartest, most creative legal teams.”We live in a country where whomever has
the most creative, smartest lawyers wins!

Take on the pro bono cases. Volunteer.
Take on the smartest cases like it’s 1954 and you’re the NAACP.
Or the ACLU stopping the Muslim Ban with injunctions.

Sometimes we forget that the faith and legal communities have often come together to bend the moral arc towards justice.

It might not have been “But for” causation
but in retrospect the stars aligned and
lawyers and faith leaders and other other unexpected allies
helped change the course of things.”

Thanks be to God that Ravi is surrounded by the best and the smartest lawyers. And we are working together.

So I ask you: what partners are you missing in your work? Who are the unexpected allies your projects need whom you have not even dared or dreamt to approach? There’s no time to wait. Build the alliances now, even if you don’t know how to.

I’d love to tell you a little story about how I’ve partnered with Ravi’s legal team (and they don’t even know that I did this so they’ll probably laugh at the story):
I read, with a certain amount of glee, that our case before the court the other day was:

Ravidath Ragbir versus Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions, III.

And as my sheroes Alina Das and Jessica Rofé argued the hell out of their case, what they don’t know is that I was praying, real, real hard.

The government attorney stood up and I started praying even harder.

“God, let this man’s tongue land heavy in his mouth.
May his words turn to ash.
May he forget his name.
May he stumble over his feet and fall flat on his face.”

Well. Let’s just put it this way: Ravi’s brilliant lawyers did their part.

But I did mine, too. Cuz, well…
bless his heart.

So we’re coming together. And they’re going to try to stop us.

But they can’t.

They can take and twist the law to serve their own nefarious aims.

But we’ll fight back.

They can criminalize and delegitimize and dehumanize

And we’ll only come back stronger.

It’s time to seize our moral authority and change the law.

Take courage and take heart that the righteous shall prevail. I give thanks the Ravi and our immigrant leaders and the teams of lawyers, activists and faith leaders have the power to show us what that means, again and again.