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Minnesota faith leaders call for bishop’s name to be removed from immigration building

Posted on: November 6, 2019 10:46 AM
Clergy from the US Episcopal church joined immigration activists in a vigil and protest
Photo Credit: Episcopal Church in Minnesota Facebook page

[Episcopal News Service] Clergy from the US Episcopal church joined immigration activists in a vigil and protest last week outside a federal building where hundreds of deportation orders are issued each year.

Protestors called on the government to remove the name of Bishop Henry Whipple from the building, because they claim what goes on there is in direct opposition to the values which the Bishop stood for.

Demonstrating outside the federal building last week, Rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Devon Anderson, said: “What is happening to immigrants in the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building is in direct opposition to the values, theology and policy of the Episcopal Church. To us, it is an intolerable irony to have the name of the first Episcopal bishop of Minnesota, an icon of human rights and compassion, on the front of this building in which so much injustice and cruelty occurs on a daily basis.”

Nearly 300 people joined in the gathering, which included a celebration of the Eucharist. Episcopal clergy and laypeople joined with members of the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration in a busy parking lot between a high-traffic commuter rail line and the federal building.

Before worship began, Minnesota Bishop Brian N. Prior acknowledged and invoked the site’s proximity to Bdote, the “Eden” of the Dakota people, who consider it their most holy place. “The Whipple Building lies just a stone’s throw from where the Dakota believe all of creation began and where Bishop Whipple walked among a beloved Dakota community,” he said. “We denounce the oppression that took place against Dakota people then and the oppression that is being perpetuated against immigrants today.”

The Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building at Fort Snelling houses the Minneapolis-area offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security. It’s named after the first Episcopal bishop of Minnesota, who persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to pardon most of the 303 Dakota Indians sentenced to death after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, though 38 were still hanged in the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

Opponents of ICE’s enforcement operations in the region see the Whipple building as a microcosm of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration violations, which the Episcopal Church has criticized for upending lives, separating families and disrupting communities. Minnesota’s Twin Cities are known as a hub for federal immigration enforcement across five states – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota – and at the centre of that hub is the Whipple building, which houses an immigration court.

“The activities that go on this building are a violation, not only of the spirit of this sacred land, but a violation of that name, Bishop Whipple, that stands on this building,” said the Revd Jim Bear Jacobs, representing the Minnesota Council of Churches.

If the Bishop’s name is not removed, protestors are asking for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be evicted from the building.