‘We’re restoring human dignity’: Sister Norma reflects on decades of helping migrants

Immigration

RIO GRANDE VALLEY (NewsNation Now) — Sister Norma Pimentel’s work has been globally recognized, including by the Pope, she’s helped over 100 thousand immigrants with emergency food, shelter, health care. She says the problems at the border that we can’t ignore have some simple answers.

Sister Norma Pimentel

Immediately upon meeting Sister Norma Pimentel, You feel peace. Though her calling in life is at the center of what some would call a political storm. The handling of the surge of migrants at the Texas-Mexico border.

“The reason why they’re here, the reason why they dare to see, ‘maybe I will get in the United States’, it’s only because of this children,” said Sister Norma. “They want to make sure that child has a chance in life.”

She has cared for migrants for over 40 years by providing aid through Catholic Charities.

Sister Norma paused when reflecting on the impact the journey has on the children she sees.

“You know, they come after a very long journey tired. Um, they’d been through so much. It’s sorta like, you have to stop being a kid. You just have to go along with what’s happening because that’s what they have. And yet when they walk into a place like this and all of a sudden they have an opportunity to be other kids and play. They forget about everything like that. Instantly!”

Sister Norma Pimentel

Since 2014, she’s offered rest to adults and families who surrender to Border Patrol, then arrive at the humanitarian respite center she founded.

Sister Norma remarked that any debate over what needs to be done for migrants stops when looking at them face to face.

“It’s about time that we start finding the right solutions and stop trying to make it political, try to make it whether this is right or wrong. It’s a reality we must fix,” said Sister Norma. “We must provide for the world, for the people, a safe space. Not only the United States but anywhere where they are.”

We lost our humanity in all of this.”

SISTER NORMA PIMENTEL

Most only the clothes on their backs according to Sister Norma.

Two migrants helped by Sister Norma witnessed violent assaults while on the journey to the U.S. and were relieved upon arriving here.

They and others, many with children, are in the center for just hours or days. Hardly long enough for education or therapy. Healing comes with a simple welcome.

“In three hours, a transformation occurs in that person. They change in three hours after they got to talk to the family. After, they were able to take a shower, get clean clothing, sit down and eat and talk to somebody, all of those. And within those three hours, this person was transformed,” said Sister Norma.

“I remember when we started in 2014 and a City official comes over and says, ‘what are you doing here, Sister Norma.’ And I looked at them and I saw the joy of the family volunteers. And I said, ‘we’re restoring human dignity. That’s what we’re doing.'”

SISTER NORMA PIMENTEL

Her cause has many critics who say helping those in need may be a moral duty, but it doesn’t negate upholding U.S. law. They say aiding those who are here illegally is a crisis as well.

“I encounter people that are so against what we’re doing,” said Sister Norma. “How can I help you understand that touching somebody’s life and reaching out to them and bringing a smile to a child is so amazing that you will feel what I feel as well.”

“How can I reach you? How can I convince you that this is life, and this is beautiful and you will feel better, and you will love how it feels when you reach out to those that need you.”

SISTER NORMA PIMENTEL

Sister Norma says if people are able to volunteer to help these families it would greatly change their perspective. She is calling on President Joe Biden and other national leaders to visit the border. Biden, in March, said he will visit at some point.

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