Pimentel will take part in a series of conversations and discussion with various University of San Francisco departmental faculty during the morning of Monday, April 29. Open to the public on Monday afternoon, April 29, 2019, 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM, will be a keynote presentation at the University of San Francisco McLaren Conference Center in collaboration with 15 USF departments and Bay Area Border Relief, “The Undocumented Truth at the Border—A Conversation with Sister Norma Pimentel of the South Texas Humanitarian Center.” Opening remarks from USF President Father Fitzgerald will be followed by USF Law School Professor Bill Hing, School of Education Dean, Shabnam Koirala-Azad and Sister Norma Pimentel. Attendance is free, but all donations will go to support for the Humanitarian Respite Center. The McLaren Conference Center is at 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco.
Pimentel has overseen the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville (Texas) since 2008, providing a range of services that include emergency food and shelter, housing assistance, clinical counseling and pregnancy care to all four counties in the Rio Grande Valley. She was instrumental in organizing the south Texas response to the 2014 surge of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States. She then noticed the extreme need and established the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, which has been operating continuously since 2014, offering daily support to refugees and asylum seekers. The respite center offers unconditional humanitarian assistance to legal asylum seekers recently released from mandatory immigration detention in the City of McAllen, along the southern Texas border, one of the busiest stretches of the U.S./Mexico border. Sister Norma’s response always stresses first and foremost the humanity of those arriving.
A recipient of the prestigious University of Notre Dame Laetare Medal in 2018, the highest honor to a U.S. Catholic, Sister Norma heeds the call to compassion to those in need and has received numerous accolades for her service in “restoring of human dignity.” “It is not until you find yourself in front of the face of the immigrant child or mother that you will understand this. It is a moment of realizing we are all one human family.” According to Pimentel, it results in radical transformation. In 2015, Pope Francis recognized and thanked Sister Norma personally for her work with immigrants in a segment that was featured on ABC’s “20/20;” she was also a finalist for “Texan of the Year.”
The focus on Northern California will include presentations with ALAS (Ayudando Latinos a Soñar) in Half Moon Bay, Our Lady of Angels parish in Burlingame, and the University of San Francisco (USF) School of Education and other departments.
Her two-day visit will include mass at Our Lady of the Pillar in Half Moon Bay and a Sunday reunion with Central American immigrant families, who passed through the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen and have recently resettled on the coast. With the support of Bay Area Border Relief and local coast side organizations, these families are getting used to their new neighborhoods and adjusting to life in the United States as they await formal decisions on their applications for legal asylum.
Bay Area Border Relief (BABR) is a humanitarian organization that serves and advocates for children and families seeking their human right to asylum in the U.S. A grassroots organization of local citizens, BABR was inspired by Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14), to provide a response to the child separation crisis of 2018 at the U.S./Mexico border area. Congresswoman Speier organized the initial congressional delegation to visit the Texas border area detention centers in May 2018 and encouraged members of BABR to be witnesses to the inhumane separation of families and children and their poor treatment as legal asylum seekers in immigration detention. The BABR group is comprised of college faculty and other educators, students, philanthropists, nurses, counselors, volunteers, filmmakers, and law and human rights advocates. Philanthropic Ventures Foundation acts as a fiscal sponsor and has also sent staff and supported graduate student volunteer travel to Texas.
“This is a citizen-created, humane and compassionate reaction to assist asylum seekers fleeing violence, our fellow human beings who have journeyed under difficult circumstances to seek a brighter future for their families,” said Dr. Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga, a faculty member of the University of San Francisco School of Education.
BABR members have volunteered on several multi-day visits to the Humanitarian Respite Center of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (CCRGV) in McAllen, TX and have protested outside Casa Padre, one of the largest immigrant youth detention facilities in Texas, housed inside a repurposed Walmart, where 1,500 immigrant teenage boys—many of them forcibly separated from their families—are still being detained. It is one of more than two dozen centers owned by Southwest Key Programs, a Texas-based private nonprofit group under federal contract to run children’s detention facilities across Texas, Arizona, and California.
Once again, reservations for the April 28 keynote address at Our Lady of Angels in Burlingame are available via Eventbrite, www.bit.ly/SisterNorma. Donations will be accepted at the event in support of the Humanitarian Respite Center Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.
Silicon Valley Latino is especially proud of the significant involvement of Cultura Ambassador and SVL Advisory Board Member, Lilian Peña, with the Bay Area Border Relief. Lilian thank you for your dedication, leadership, and commitment to this work, we applaud you.