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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Sr. Norma Pimentel reflects on the immigrant experience in Center for Social Concerns lecture

Notre Dame's Center for Social Concerns hosted its 2020 Annual Rev. Bernie Clark C.S.C lecture virtually Wednesday evening, highlighting justice in the world. The event, entitled “Justice at the Border: The Dignity of Human Life at the Core of Our Faith,” welcomed Sr. Norma Pimentel who shared her personal experience as an immigrant.

Named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2020,” Pimentel is a sister with the Missionaries of Jesus and a licensed professional counselor. Devoted to service, she is the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Real Grande Valley, leading various programs that benefit the lives of those in need. Her efforts to make a difference in the community brought her acknowledgement as a recipient of the 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr. “Keep the Dream Alive” Award from Catholic Charities USA and a nomination for “Texan of the Year.”

Pimentel is an immigrant from Mexico, and crossed the border into the U.S. while her mother was still pregnant with her. Her father believed that bringing his family to the U.S. would give them better opportunities.

“My dad as a young father, like many other parents [came] to the United States in search of an opportunity to provide a dignified life for his family,” Pimentel said.

Growing up, she traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico with citizenship in both countries, always face-to-face with the reality of immigration. Pimentel explained how “it has been a blessing to have the richness of two cultures defining” who she is. Her personal experience as an immigrant influenced her to help families arriving at the border, she said.

“I heard many horrific stories of the atrocities that we as a nation were contributing with our own technology,” Pimentel said. “This is when I began to better understand the injustices that our nation was a part of.”

She noticed many children traveling to the border by themselves, in very poor conditions, as their parents could not afford to go with them. After being granted access into the U.S., the immigrants had no necessities or guidance. They were alone, hungry and fearful. Pimentel recalled working to alleviate their suffering through border control.

Immigrants still face hardship today, Pimentel said, and she stressed the need for policies that prioritize human life over political conflict. She believes that it is the responsibility of the people to address the humanitarian crisis and initiate change.

“It is disheartening to see so many people suffering, people who are hurting, and those who can make a difference are not taking action to do so,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel asked the audience to be open to hearing the stories of refugees, and to make an earnest attempt to understand their struggles. She said she believes that people can make a difference in the lives of those who suffer at the border, underscoring that it is America's responsibility to help refugees, instead of rejecting them with inhumane policies.

To inspire the audience to participate in solving this refugee crisis, Pimentel shared a quote from Pope Francis.

“By coming together, we can accomplish a lot of good,” she said. “Collectively, we can make a difference. It takes all of us to build a better tomorrow for everyone.”