Christian leaders and activists are demanding the release of a student pastor and her husband, who were recently arrested by immigration officials and face possible deportation.
The Rev. Betty Rendón, a pastor at Emaus Evangelical Lutheran Church in Racine, Wisconsin, was arrested earlier this month along with other members of her family in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on her home.
Voces de La Frontera, a local human rights group, posted a petition online on Wednesday calling on supporters to demand that ICE not deport the pastor back to her native Colombia.
“It is urgent that [there] be a strong public outcry to achieve the release of Pastor Betty and her family,” stated the group.
“This family’s experience highlights the actual implementation of the Trump administration’s ‘shock-and-awe’ plan to arrest and detain thousands of parents and children in a targeted operation against families in major cities across the U.S.”
The Rev. Marcy Wieties, another pastor at Emaus ELCA, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the congregation is working to raise money to support the family in various ways.
"The money collected is being used not only for legal fees, but also to assist Carlos and Betty's daughter and granddaughter, who were living with them," explained Wieties.
"In addition, we are collecting cards and notes for the family at the church. It was more logical to collect them and forward them as a bundle, as their location has changed and mail will not be forwarded from the previous detention center after any relocation."
Wietes also told CP that the church and others "continue to advocate for their release and to pray for the family."
Earlier this month, Emaus ELCA announced on their Facebook page that Pastor Rendón, along with her husband, her daughter Paula, and another relative were arrested by ICE on May 8.
According to the church, the operation began when ICE agents arrested Paula while she was driving her 5-year-old daughter to school. ICE agents targeted Paula even though, according to her, she was protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“The agents took the wheel of the car and drove them back to the house, where Pastor Rendón’s husband, Carlos, was leaving home for work. The agents shouted at him in English, which he does not speak well, shook him violently, and shoved him towards the car,” explained the church in a May 14 post.
“They ordered him to open the door of the house. Once the door was open, they forced their way in. A group of ICE vehicles with numerous officers then converged on the house and poured inside, brandishing their weapons and pointing them at the family.”
While Paula was eventually released, Rendón and her husband were officially detained. At issue was the fact that the pastor had fled Colombia’s civil war, but was denied asylum. While issued an order of deportation back in 2009, it had not been executed.
“We are at a loss to explain why ICE should have decided to execute it now, just as Pastor Rendón is beginning her doctoral studies in preaching at the [Lutheran School of Theology] in Chicago,” continued Emaus.
Last week, a vigil was held by the Racine Interfaith Coalition outside of the Kenosha County Detention Center, where the pastor and her family were being held.
ELCA Greater Milwaukee Synod Bishop Paul Erickson told those gathered at the vigil that “Betty and her family are refugees, having fled violence and almost certain death had they remained in their homeland of Colombia.”
“We gather in prayer, filled with anger, concern and love for all our neighbors who happen to be refugees and immigrants in our midst,” stated Bishop Erickson, as reported by Living Lutheran.
Wieties of Emaus told CP that since the ICE raid, the family members still in custody have been moved to different detention centers.
"Betty, Carlos, and Felipe have been moved to other detention centers. Betty and Carlos were transferred to the Pulaski Detention Center in Ullin, Illinois," noted Wieties.
"Felipe was transferred to the McHenry Detention Center in Woodstock, Illinois. Attorneys continue to work on their cases, but it is now very difficult for anyone, including their family, to have any conversations with them. Therefore, we are uncertain about their current status."