Nun gets honors for aid to mi­grants

McAllen cleric mounts cam­paign for $5.5M to build “respite cen­ter.”

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - METRO & STATE - By Mitchell Fer­man

MCALLEN — As Sis­ter Norma Pi­mentel’s pro­file con­tin­ues to rise, and a day af­ter re­ceiv­ing a na­tional award half­way across the coun­try, she re­ceived an un­ex­pected $27,000 do­na­tion from the Jewish com­mu­nity for her work as­sist­ing im­mi­grants.

Pi­mentel has be­come well­known for help­ing im­mi­grant fam­i­lies, and un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, im­mi­gra­tion along the United States-Mex­ico bor­der has been a fo­cus. Re­cently, with Trump’s “zero-tol­er­ance” pol­icy, some 2,500 im­mi­grant fam­i­lies were sep­a­rated. Hun­dreds of those fam­i­lies, upon re­union, have stayed tem­po­rar­ily with Catholic Char­i­ties of the Rio Grande Val­ley, which Pi­mentel di­rects.

The His­panic Her­itage Awards re­cently hon­ored Pi­mentel with the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s com­mu­nity ser­vice award in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Lo­cal lead­ers lauded Pi­mentel a day later at NIU Liv­ing on 10th Street upon her re­turn from the coun­try’s cap­i­tal, where Pi­mentel also an­nounced a cam­paign to raise $5.5 mil­lion for the new, per­ma­nent hu­man­i­tar­ian respite cen­ter in down­town McAllen. Those funds will go to­ward the build­ing it­self, and its oper­a­tions.

The new sev­eral-story build­ing, an­nounced last year, will cost no more than $4 mil­lion, Pi­mentel said. There is cur­rently a na­tion­wide com­pe­ti­tion for the ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign­ing of the new build­ing. The com­pe­ti­tion is run by Catholic Char­i­ties in con­junc­tion with Ge­orge­town Univer­sity.

Con­struc­tion on the per­ma­nent respite cen­ter, which will be lo­cated near the cor­ner of Chicago Av­enue and 16th Street, will likely be­gin in 2019. Pi­mentel hopes for an open­ing at the be­gin­ning of 2020.

For now, im­mi­grants tem­po­rar­ily pass­ing through the Rio Grande Val­ley will con­tinue to stay at the Catholic Char­i­ties hu­man­i­tar­ian respite cen­ter on Beau­mont Av­enue near Bi­cen­ten­nial Boule­vard, be­hind Bentsen Tower.

When im­mi­grants are ap­pre­hended by law en­force­ment, they are brought to a pro­cess­ing cen­ter in south McAllen. Many of the fam­i­lies are then dropped off down­town and stay for sev­eral hours, usu­ally not more than a day, at the respite cen­ter be­fore board­ing a bus to live with fam­ily else­where in the U.S. as they seek asy­lum.

The respite cen­ter has been flooded with hun­dreds of im­mi­grants every day in re­cent months, so do­na­tions and fund­ing are crit­i­cal to its mis­sion.

Mike Blum, a real es­tate agent and mem­ber of McAllen’s Tem­ple Emanuel, has been re­ceiv­ing do­na­tions and checks from the Jewish com­mu­nity across the coun­try.

“Please help the chil­dren,” read some of the notes, at­tached to do­na­tions and checks, which Blum has re­ceived. “Please help the fam­i­lies.”

And the con­tri­bu­tions haven’t stopped, even as Trump’s fam­ily sep­a­ra­tions pol­icy has.

“It doesn’t seem to end,” Blum said of in­com­ing do­na­tions. “And every time the ad­min­is­tra­tion does some­thing else that’s stupid and silly and crazy, it con­tin­ues

Our rul­ing

A vi­ral im­age says Ted Cruz said, “When gays stayed hid­den we had no mass shoot­ings; we had no pub­lic nu­dity. So­ci­ety was po­lite. Now any­thing and every­thing to tick up.”

Blum pre­sented Pi­mentel with a check for $27,350. goes and I blame them.” That’s a fake quote. Cruz didn’t blame pub­lic nu­dity or mass shoot­ings on gay peo­ple.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire.

Sis­ter Norma Pi­mentel was saluted by the His­panic Her­itage Awards.

JOEL MARTINEZ / FOR AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN 2016

Sis­ter Norma Pi­mentel gives in­struc­tions to re­cent im­mi­grants at the Sa­cred Heart respite cen­ter in McAllen.

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