1A Across America: Migrant Aid Divides Congregations

1A Across America: Migrant Aid Divides Congregations

2:10pm Jul 11, 2019
Sister Norma Pimentel is the director of Catholic Charities for the Rio Grande Valley. The respite center has aided 100,000 migrants since it opened in 2014.
James Morrison/WAMU

For months, the crisis at the southern border has overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities.

Many faith groups are stepping up to fill the demand for volunteers and resources.

One respite center, Catholic Charities for the Rio Grande Valley, has aided 100,000 migrants since it opened in 2014. Here’s what its director, Sister Norma Pimentel, wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post that’s addressed to President Trump:

Every day of the year, from morning to evening, families coming over the border are welcomed at our center with smiles, a warm bowl of soup, a shower and a place to rest. Most families are exhausted and afraid, carrying little more than a few belongings in a plastic bag. They come in all forms and at all ages. Few speak any English. Most are in great need of help. Some days, we see 20 people. Other days, it’s closer to 300. In recent weeks, it has been very busy. Some stay a few hours, but many spend the night before heading on to new destinations. Since we opened, more than 100,000 have come through our doors.

[…] I am energized each day by the families I meet, especially the children. I am energized as well by the volunteers. They come from our local communities but also from across the United States. We witness daily how, working together, people of all faiths can focus on helping the person in front of us. Regardless of who we are and where we came from, we remain part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another.

But the issue of migrant aid — and the debate over the Trump administration’s immigration policies — has divided many faith groups.

Last month, Liberty University president and evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. made headlines for lashing out at a preacher who criticized border conditions.

How are congregations dealing with disagreements over immigration policy and aid? We hear from several faith-based volunteers at the border.

Show produced by Across America producer James Morrison. Text by Kathryn Fink.

1A Across America is funded through a grant from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 that is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting.


Alyssa Stebbing, Episcopalian minister from The Woodlands, Texas

Elizabeth Dias, National correspondent, The New York Times, covering faith and politics; @elizabethjdias

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

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