May 31st, 2019
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
from Martin Niemoeller, a Lutheran minister, and part of the resistance against the Nazi regime in Germany. He spent seven years in concentration camps.
The Racine Interfaith Coalition (RIC) sponsored a vigil on Tuesday evening for Pastor Betty Rendon and her husband, Carlos Hincapie. ICE snatched both of these people from their home in the Chicago area on May 8th, 2019. ICE tore this couple away from family members, and then transferred them to the Kenosha detention center. From there Betty and Carlos were sent to detention centers in Illinois and Louisiana. Finally, they were deported to Colombia, on the day of the vigil.
The vigil was held at Emaus ELCA Church in Racine, Wisconsin. I had never been there before. The church fascinated me. I had never been to a Lutheran church where they prominently displayed an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a Catholic-style crucifix. After a while, it became clear to me that this church, and Lutherans that I met, were very involved in supporting the local immigrant community.
Linda Boyle, from RIC, led us all in a walk around the neighborhood to show that we cared about Pastor Betty and other immigrants. I brought along a banner from the New Sanctuary Movement, where I volunteer, and I held it during the walk with a young man named Anthony, who is a student at a Lutheran seminary. Anthony seemed like a good man, somebody who could one day follow in the steps of Niemoeller.
During the vigil, Linda introduced a number of speakers. One of them was Rev. John Freddy Correa, a former pastor of Emaus Church. He spoke passionately, and loudly. He talked about solidarity. He also mentioned that the arrest of Pastor Betty cut close to the bone.
He said, “That arrest, that person could have been me. It could have been you.”
Christine Neumann-Ortize, the executive director of Voces de la Frontera, also got up to talk. I know her, and she speaks very well. She made the point of saying that the actions of ICE were solely because of racism and xenophobia.
Everything that Christine said was true, but I would like to add something.
The Department of Homeland Security is flexing its muscles. ICE has been arresting in deporting people for years, under Obama as well as under Trump. When they busted Pastor Betty, then just upped the ante. Why did they arrest her? I believe that it was to show that nobody is safe and nobody is exempt. They grabbed a religious leader, a community leader, somebody who was important to many people. ICE arrested and deported her to make other people afraid. They succeeded.
I am afraid. I, like many other people, have a family member who is not a U.S. citizen. This family member, although she has been here legally for 34 years, could be deported…just because those people want her gone. That is the threat. They, like the Gestapo, can kick in your door and take away somebody that you love. They took Pastor Betty to make sure we all know that the threat is real.
The vigil ended with Pastor Freddy leading us all in prayer. We gathered together and held on to each other. For a few moments we were one. For a few moments we were stronger than our fears.
We could go on.