Lutheran Student Pastor Deported to Colombia Despite Protests

Supporters of pastor Betty Rendón gather for a vigil outside the Kenosha Detention Center where she was being held on May 15, 2019, in Kenosha, Wis. Photo courtesy of Emaus ELCA

Despite prayer vigils, a letter-writing campaign from her church and her denomination and a petition for a stay of removal from her lawyers, a student pastor was deported this week in what the head of the mainline Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is calling “an egregious case once again of family separation.”

Betty Rendón, who fled with her family from Colombia during the country’s civil war, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on May 8 after her application for asylum was rejected more than a decade earlier.

Another, last-minute application to stop her deportation was denied Friday (May 24), the National Immigrant Justice Center confirmed.

Rendón and her husband, Carlos Hincapié, were transported to Louisiana over Memorial Day weekend before being put on a plane to Colombia on Tuesday morning, according to the center.

ICE could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rendón had been studying at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and commuting from the city to Racine, Wis., to work part time as a lay minister at Emaus ELCA Church. She had been working mostly with the Spanish speakers in the bilingual congregation — leading worship and performing baptisms and quinceañeras, according to the Rev. Marcy Wieties of Emaus.

Wieties said the student pastor was “most definitely” needed at the church and “very well loved.”

“There are a lot of people who are very hurt, very angry, feeling the loss,” she said.

Rendón and Carlos Hincapié’s daughter, Paula Hincapié, had been pulled over and taken into custody by ICE agents earlier this month as she was driving her 5-year-old daughter to school, according to a post on Emaus’ website. The agents then arrested her mother and father, as well as another relative who had been staying with them at the family home, nearby.

Paula Hincapié later was released, as she is protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. However, because of her DACA status, she now cannot leave the U.S. to visit her parents. Her daughter is a U.S. citizen.

“They are separating our family,”  Paula Hincapié said at a rally last week outside ICE’s Chicago field office, according to a press release by the National Immigrant Justice Center, which represented Rendón and Carlos Hincapié.

“Our family has always been together. I feel totally alone. My parents are my main support as a single mother.”

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Source: Religion News Service