Nun leading effort to shelter, feed immigrants at border

Donations are pouring into South Texas to help the new immigrants, and one woman is leading the effort to care for them
It's an image we're seeing, over and over: A new wave of immigrants crossing the Mexican border into the Rio Grande Valley.

One mother, still carrying her infant daughter, drops to her knees. She rejoices after hearing she finally made it to the US. But there are other images of the immigration surge most people haven't seen.

Donations are pouring into South Texas to help the new immigrants. It's a massive effort being led by one woman.

Sister Norma Pimentel says she first began helping after seeing dozens of women and kids at the downtown McAllen bus station.

"They are dehydrated, they are totally drained, they just fall and they need attention," Pimentel said.

The immigrants are being dropped off at the bus station by the border patrol, on the condition they will appear before an immigration judge at their final destination. Family members then pay for their bus fare to locations across the country. But until they can leave, the mothers and children didn't have any place to go.

"The priest from this parish, I asked him if he could let us use his parish hall to centralize and help be able to do this type of assistance to these families and he said yes immediately. So we opened the doors and what you have here is what happened," Pimentel said.

Inside, there are dozens of cots inside an air-conditioned tent, portable showers, medical care, food and clothes for all ages.

The black hoodie 11-year-old Carlos Arita is wearing comes from the shelter. He says it'll keep him warm on the cold bus ride to Kansas City where he will finally be reunited with his father. It's been six years, he says.

Arita's story is like that of the thousands of others who have recently crossed over searching for a better life.

"We're not responsible for these people coming, but we are taking the responsibility to help in the time of need and that's what's important," said Eddy Olivarez, chief administrator officer of the Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Department.

Olivarez says on average, they help 150 families a day since they opened the shelter a week ago. And with Sister Norma leading the charge, they are prepared to help hundreds, if not thousands, more because the surge of immigrants is showing no signs of stopping.

If you'd like to donate to the effort, visit www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org.
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