Article: Betty Rendón

Last week an intern pastor of the ELCA and PhD student from The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

This is from Emaus Lutheran Church’s Facebook page:

Betty Rendón is a part-time intern pastor at Emaus Lutheran Church in Racine, Wisconsin. Last Wednesday morning, Pastor Rendón’s daughter was driving her five-year-old to school from their home in Chicago. She was not two minutes from the house when she was stopped by ICE officers who admitted they were looking specifically for her. 

The officers arrested and handcuffed her, despite her protests that she is legally protected by DACA and should not be a target for ICE. 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. 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. Pastor Rendón was still in her pajamas. They did not allow her to get dressed, but handcuffed her as she was. Her granddaughter screamed and cried while the officers searched until they found their houseguest, a cousin, who had fled into the basement to hide. They handcuffed him as well. Having arrested all of the adults in the home, the officers allowed Pastor Rendón to phone the child’s other grandparents so that they could come collect her.

Their family moved to the U.S. from Colombia after guerrilla soldiers threatened Pastor Rendón(the principal of a school in Columbia at that time) for opposing the guerilla’s attempts to recruit students. The U.S. denied her application for asylum. 

This saddens me. 

Depending upon who you talk to you could get one of two responses:

  1. She broke the law and these are the consequences.
  2. When did a theology student become a threat to national security?

If you believe Intern Pastor Rendón should be deported back to Columbia where her life was once threatened, there is nothing I can write that will convince you otherwise. 

Yet, I am sad because this is not how God wants us to treat one another, including those who are from another country living among us. I fully recognize our immigration laws allow for this kind of treatment of others yet I wonder if it is the right? This action (above) may be legal but is it just? The manner of the reported arrest certainly was without compassion.

I am not an advocate of open borders. Yet as a Christian and a pastor, I will continue to remind anyone who will listen that how we treat people matters to Jesus. 

Life is messy and not always black and white. Living in the grey is difficult because answers aren’t always clear. Life is easier when everything is boiled down to black, white, right and wrong but something gets sacrificed in that way of living: people. 

I do know that when we hold dear to rigid ideas and inflexible ideologies over individuals and their circumstances…people get hurt. History (even recent history in our own country) tells us everything we need to know. 

Compassion matters to God. That doesn’t mean there are not consequences for our actions but the statement still stands regardless of consequences.

I am praying for God’s will to be done in this matter. I am also praying for the undocumented children who have been separated from their families and do not have the ability to advocate for themselves within our complex legal system. 

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


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