Betty Rendón is a candidate for ordination who is also enrolled as a student at the Lutheran School of Theology (LSTC) in their Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program. She has been serving in a pulpit supply capacity since March of this year at Emaus-ELCA, and she was granted Synodically Authorized Minister status by Bishop Paul Erickson of the Greater Milwaukee Synod so that she could preach and preside there for a period of up to one year.
The family came to the United States originally because Betty Rendón was once the director of a school in Colombia during the war. The guerrillas attacked her school, assaulting several of her teachers. She applied for asylum in the US, but was eventually denied due to the lack of a police report, although she says everyone in the area knew of the attack. Once her appeals were exhausted, she was issued an order of deportation, but it was never executed.
Betty established a rapport with the church at Emaus and they were very happy with the student who, though not ordained, they called “Pastor.”
Last Wednesday morning, Rendón’s daughter, who has protected status under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was driving her five-year-old to school from their home in Chicago when she was stopped by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers. Despite her protests that she was protected under DACA status, she was arrested and handcuffed while the officers drove her car back to her home where she was living with her parents.
Betty’s husband was outside and the officers pressured him to open the door so that they could enter without a warrant. Every adult in the house was arrested under gun point. Betty was still in her pajamas and not allowed to dress before they took her away.
When they left, the ICE officers failed to secure the door, which allowed robbers subsequently to enter the home, ransack it, and steal all items of any value.
Betty’s daughter was eventually released. However she was called back this week for an interview. She was understandably terrified she would be arrested again and deported, separating her from her daughter who is an American Citizen. Several ELCA members, along with the press accompanied her to her interview where she was released and given assurances she would not be a target for deportation.
It is hard to say what would have happened without the public scrutiny. When we show up, it makes a difference.
Betty and her husband are being held at the Kenosha Detention Center.
On Wednesday a group of 170 people gathered for a prayer vigil at the Detention Center.
Bishop Paul Erickson of the Greater Milwaukee Synod spoke.
“We are not a people who turn our backs on immigrants and refugees, because immigrants and refugees make up the very core of who we are as Americans,” Erickson said. “This is not who we are as Christians.”
An effort is being made to petition the government for a stay of deportation for Betty and her husband.
Besides prayer and advocacy for all immigrants one thing that can be done for Betty and her family is to send a card or letter to her at the facility:
c/o Kenosha Detention Center
4777 88th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53144
ELCA Advocacy has a link where you can urge Congress to uphold access to asylum and enact fair immigration policies:
Living Lutheran: ELCA members pray for student pastor, call for immigration reform