Community Holds Vigil in Honor of Pastor Betty & Husband

The Racine Interfaith Coalition, Emaus ELCA, and Voces de la Frontera will be holding a prayer vigil today, Tuesday, May 28 at 6:00 PM at Emaus ELCA church, 1925 Summit Avenue in Racine, in support of Betty Rendon and her husband Carlos Hincapie. Rendon and Hincapie have reportedly been transferred to a detention center in Louisiana and are scheduled to be deported to Columbia today, May 28, 2019.

The vigil in Racine will take place at the same time as a prayer vigils being held at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in New Orleans, a congregation that is also part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

A student pastor who was scheduled to start her Ph.D. studies in June at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, Betty Rendon was forcibly taken on May 8, along with her husband and a relative, from their home in Englewood, IL and placed in ICE detention in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The couple was moved last week to two different detention centers in southern Illinois, far from family and others working on their behalf.

Last Thursday, attorney Diana Rashid, with the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago, filed stay of removal requests for both Rendon and Hincapie. The requests included 65 letters of support from community organizations and petitions signed by more than 15,000 people from across the country. On Friday, Rashid received a call from ICE indicating that the stays were denied.

Betty came to the US from Colombia in 2004 on a temporary visa seeking safety and political asylum after her life was threatened for not allowing guerillas in Colombia’s civil war to recruit students at a school where she was the principal.

This abrupt deportation will separate the couple from their daughter Paula Hincapie-Rendon, who has DACA status, Paula’s five-year-old daughter, and a life the family has built over 15 years of residence in the United States. Paula said today that “our family is heart-broken. I have no words to describe what I am feeling. We did not even get a chance to say good-bye to them or hug them. My daughter cries for her grandparents. I don’t know when I will see them again.”

The deportation of this family is similar to thousands of deportations that have taken place over the past several months. According to USA Today, figures released by ICE in March show the agency arrested 34,546 people between October and December 2018. More than a third of those immigrants, like Rendon and Hincapie, had no criminal record and were contributing members of their communities.

“ICE’s decision to transfer Pastor Betty and her husband Carlos to a Louisiana detention center over the Memorial day weekend-away from supporters and family-in order to deport them to Colombia today, is a bellwether for escalating abuse on the part of the Department of Homeland Security,“ said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera. “The fact that they targeted a religious leader and her daughter, a DACA recipient who is supposed to be protected from deportation, is a wakeup call that there are no moral limits to the abuse perpetuated by ICE and no justification except xenophobia and racism. Instead of making Americans safer, ICE is carrying out military-style operations intended to create fear and to tear families apart. We call on our U.S. Senators who have oversight over Department of Homeland Security to stop funding an agency that is causing so much harm in our communities. Pastor Betty and her husband, like so many others, must be reunited with their families in the US, as part of a national immigration reform package after the 2020 elections. We invite supporters to join us in Chicago outside of the ICE office in Chicago on June 20th , as part of a national day of action on Day of the Refugee, to condemn ICE’s actions against Pastor Betty and to stand in solidarity with other immigrant and refugee families threatened with deportation and separation.”

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