Restoring Dignity for All People
Guest post by Sheryl Young, San Mateo County Program Director
This past weekend, Bay Area Border Relief (BABR) welcomed Sister Norma Seni Pimentel, of the Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, to the Bay Area. The Respite Center has served a height of 800 adults and children a day seeking asylum at the border, an increase from an average of 50 a day just last year. Most of these families are from the Northern Triangle of Central America and have been traveling for days to reach the American border. The most immediate needs are for food, water, change of clothes, medicine and a shower, all which can be found at the Respite Center.
Sister Norma traveled to the Bay Area to share her on-the-ground observations and perspective on the humanitarian crisis on the border, in her community and its impacts, and advocate for Bay Area Border Relief, an organization created by a group of San Francisco area natives who have traveled down to the border 3 times now to assist with intake and processing procedures needed for families released from the ICE Detention Center. Sister Norma spoke at Our Lady of Angels in Burlingame on Sunday and led a talk at the University of San Francisco on Monday, in addition to meeting with local students and BABR volunteers. A highlight of her time her was getting to visit with several families who passed through her Center last year and found sponsorship in Half Moon Bay.
Sister Norma is herself from a family who immigrated, born in Brownsville, Texas – living on both sides of the border until her father obtained his citizenship, as is very common in border towns. She is tireless in her efforts to restore the dignity of people who ask for help.
She told a story about meeting a woman in the local grocery store, who approached her and told her that she didn’t agree with the Respite Center because she had heard there were dangerous people crossing the border and she was afraid. Sister Norma replied that she is safe in her home, and the people at the Center are safe. She explained that the Border Patrol is very good about finding the “bad” people and putting them where they can’t harm anyone. She also explained that she has been serving people for 5 years, over 200,000 families, and has never had to call the police. She then invited the woman to come visit.
Giving to this effort is not a typical investment, nor are the outcomes straight forward. We at PVF are proud to support a new beginning for these families in our community. Please visit our online donation page to aid in Bay Area Border Relief’s efforts with Sister Norma, or visit their website for other ways to help.