The theme of December’s vigil was “Asylum is a Human Right.” As the people gathered in front of the immigration court at the Henry Whipple Federal Building courtyard, they formed a caravan. The caravan marched to the border of Guatemala (the edge of the parking lot), then to the border of Mexico (the transit station), then to the U.S. border (back to the courtyard). At each stop there was a reading of an article from the Declaration of Human Rights, the document that guarantees the right to seek asylum. That reading was followed by the reading of a Trump proclamation/tweet in direct contravention.
Although the caravan was symbolic, it was a stark reminder of the struggles that the people in the caravan experience. No doubt, however, the most poignant moment of the vigil was the passing of the vans, which looked much like cattle vans, carrying the detained to the courtroom for their potential sentence of deportation.
The December vigil was lead by Edina Community Lutheran Church. Michele Garnett McKenzie, Advocates For Human Rights, spoke about the human right to seek asylum. Rose Grengs told stories of three Central American women who she met at the border and were seeking asylum. Diane Haines, Mayflower UCC, in the voice of Sheriff Tony Estrada, told about the increased militarization of the border.
This vigil, sponsored by the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM), is held every second Tuesday of the month at the Immigration Court at the Whipple Building, Fort Snelling. The Whipple building houses ICE and the immigration court. Human beings are brought there in shackles and deported from there in big white vans. The building is named after Bishop Henry Whipple and sits on land that is considered sacred by the Dakota people. Bishop Whipple was a staunch advocate for Native Americans.