KENOSHA — Exactly one week after student pastor Betty Rendon and her husband Carlos were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, a group of about 170 people held a prayer vigil Wednesday evening outside of the Kenosha County Detention Center.
Rendon, who is from Colombia, was a minister at Emaus Evangelical Lutheran Church in Racine at the time. She was arrested at her home in the Chicagoland area on May 8.
The details of Rendon’s arrest have shocked many people in the immigrant and religious communities.
According to Stephanie Mitchell, a parishioner at Emaus and a professor at Carthage College, the ICE officers originally handcuffed Rendon’s daughter Paula Hincapie, a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) after being brought here by her parents from Colombia.
Hincapie was allegedly taking her 5-year-old daughter to school at the time of the arrest, and ICE agents drove her car back to the house to arrest Rendon, her husband Carlos and one other person.
According to Nicole Alberico, an ICE spokeswoman, both Rendon and Hincapie “were ordered removed by a federal immigration judge on May 22, 2008. On June 1, 2009, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld the immigration judge’s removal order for Ms. Rendon-Madrid and Ms. Hincapie-Rendon.”
Rendon is still in ICE custody at the Kenosha County Detention Center, 4777 88th Ave.
Hincapie was let go and was told to report to ICE offices in Chicago on Wednesday morning. She went there believing she might be deported to Colombia, her birthplace, some vigil attendees said.
“Instead of getting rearrested and deported she was released from supervision and given assurance that as a DACA recipient she will not be targeted for deportation,” Mitchell said. “So what I want us to realize tonight is: What you’re doing is really important.”
Alberico confirmed that Hincapie's order of supervision was cancelled.
‘They just don’t care’
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director for Voces de La Frontera, an immigrant activist group based in Milwaukee, went with Hincapie to the ICE offices in Chicago on Wednesday.
“In this operation, they were going after the entire household including a DACA recipient, who is supposed to be free from the threat of deportation,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “This is an attack not just on a family, but it’s an attack on a religious leader and an attack on a DACA recipient, and that elevates it and gives us an opportunity to push back hard.”
Neumann-Ortiz said this case was an “urban operation intended to terrorize immigrant families.”
“They don’t care that it’s a DACA recipient, they don’t care that this is a pastor, they obviously don’t care if people are loved members of the community,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “They just don’t care.”
The Journal Times has reached out to ICE for further clarification but as of Wednesday evening had not received further comment.
Many people at Wednesday’s prayer vigil, organized by the Racine Interfaith Coalition, held signs in support of Rendon.
The Rev. Prentiss Robbins Jr., a community organizer for RIC, thanked the people from different religious backgrounds that have shown their support.
“Justice does not start until we start standing up for what we believe is right,” Robbins said. “We are standing united. We can no longer let these things continue. … People are walking in and out of people’s life, and they just disappear, and nobody says anything about it.”
Bishop Paul Erickson of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America thanked people for coming to the vigil to gather in prayer “filled with anger, filled with concern, filled with love.”
“No person is illegal; no person deserves the cruel and vindictive treatment that she and her family have endured,” Erickson said. “No person should be treated like a political pawn in an immigration debate that has reached absurd and vile depths.”
Masters of divinity degree
Erickson told The Journal Times that Rendon had received a masters of divinity degree in 2013 from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and those studies began in 2008.
Rendon came to the United States several years prior to that and, according to Erickson, has worked for the church for most of her adult life, both in her native Colombia and in the United States. She has been accepted to begin a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and was scheduled to begin this fall.
“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.”
This story has been updated to reflect that Hincapie's order of supervision was cancelled.