Mourners lit candles beneath the pulpit. Speakers told stories about him; how he'd helped them over the years, how he always joked around.
Despite the proceedings last night at Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian Church, in Elizabeth, no one had died. About 150 people had gathered instead for a vigil commemorating Rausel Arista, a community organizer with the Latin American Coalition who was detained early this week at the Buffalo, New York, airport after a weekend visit with friends.
TSA officials stopped Arista, an undocumented immigrant, and turned him over to Border Patrol. He was arrested for flying without documentation. He is currently in a detention facility in Buffalo and facing deportation proceedings. Coalition employees expect he'll be released.
I met Arista just two weeks ago, at a coalition-sponsored event featuring Honduran natives who spoke about the conditions in their country that have caused many of its youth to flee for the U.S. Arista was serving as a translator for a 9-year-old Honduran girl I wrote about in this week's CL.
Over the last two years, since he joined the coalition, Arista has helped 13 undocumented immigrants survive deportation proceedings. Originally from Mexico, he has lived in Charlotte for 15 years. He has two children, boys ages 7 and 9.