President Trump traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border today, calling attention to the ongoing impasse with Democrats in Congress over funding for a border wall.
The federal government is nearly three weeks into a partial shutdown, and hundreds of thousands of government workers are going without pay. Mr. Trump has said he will veto any funding bill that does not include $5.7 billion for a border wall while Democratic leaders have promised to fight wall construction.
If they cannot find a compromise, Mr. Trump said he would “declare a national emergency” as he left for Texas, according to the Associated Press.
Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., the executive director of Catholic Charities in the Rio Grande Valley, welcomed the president to the border and invited him to see the work of staff and volunteers assisting people from throughout Central America who are seeking asylum in the United States.
“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.”
“We witness daily how, working together, people of all faiths can focus on helping the person in front of us,” Sister Pimentel, who was present during a roundtable discussion with Mr. Trump, wrote in an op-ed addressed to the president yesterday in The Washington Post. “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.”
Last month, during a panel discussion on immigration hosted by America Media, Sister Pimentel took issue with immigrants being characterized as “invaders.”
“There’s a fear that paralyzes us, that makes us distance ourselves from seeing the reality of human life for what it is,” she said. “All we need to do is connect with our God. There is no law above God’s law.”
Sister Pimentel said she often asks immigrants why they decide to undertake the dangerous journey to the United States. They tell her they had no choice, she said, and that they fled to save their lives and the lives of their children.
At the same time, Sister Pimentel acknowledged the role of border security in southern Texas, taking issue with how agents are sometimes characterized by critics of the government.
“For them to be put down because they are doing their jobs, I don’t understand that. That’s fake news,” she said. “They do their jobs very well. They are not catching and releasing criminals. They are there to protect us and to keep our borders safe. And that is what they do.”
“There’s a fear that paralyzes us, that makes us distance ourselves from seeing the reality of human life for what it is.”
Sister Pimentel was also a guest on the podcast Jesuitical in November, where she spoke about family separations, the immigrant caravan and birthright citizenship. She said immigration is not about politics but about human beings.
Sean Salai, S.J.interviewed Sister Pimentel for America in September. She told him that the most pressing issue at the border was the number of families that were arriving. Catholics in the United States can help, she told him.
“American Catholics can be part of our circumstances on the border by being in solidarity—in spirit, in prayer, in their involvement—through sharing this reality with others who do not understand what is happening and may be misled to see it as something hurting our country,” she said. “Rather it’s an opportunity to be present to suffering human life. We have a responsibility to respond to that, to see it as an opportunity rather than as a fear that we have to protect ourselves.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump made his case for why the nation should strengthen and extend the border wall during a televised address from the Oval Office.
“America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation. But, all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration,” the president said. He argued that undocumented immigrants are a strain on public resources and “drive down” jobs and wages. “This is a humanitarian crisis—a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” he said.
Yet the number of illegal border crossings have been going down since 2000. The Center for Migration Studies in New York reports that people who enter the country legally and overstay their visas account for about two-thirds of new undocumented immigrants.
Material from Catholic News Service was used in this report.