Sr. Norma Pimentel. Since an initial surge in the summer of 2014, tens thousands of immigrants – many of them unaccompanied minors and young women with children – have crossed into the United States border at Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. The majority are from Central America, particularly Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Fleeing horrific gang violence, trying to rejoin family members, and looking for a way to make a living, they immediately surrender themselves to U.S. Border Patrol in the hope that the legal system will allow them to stay.
After detaining these women and children for hours and even days, Border Patrol releases hundreds of immigrant families a day with bus tickets and a ‘notice to appear’ at an immigration hearing. Tired, hungry, dirty, and distraught many of these women and families seek respite at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown McAllen, Texas, where they meet Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. A sister with the Missionaries of Jesus, Sister Norma knew there was more that could be done. “They were just being dropped off at the bus station in heartbreaking conditions,” she said.
And so, in early June 2014 Sister Norma requested permission to set up a way station for immigrant families to receive the physical, spiritual, and emotional care they so desperately needed at Sacred Heart Church – just a a few blocks away from the bus station in McAllen. And just a few days later, she opened an additional facility at Brownsville’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral – just a block away from the bus station there.
Learn more about and celebrate Norma Pimentel, a sister who works on the border to welcome those seeking refuge.