National News

After CatholicVote Files Lawsuit, Nun Urges Conservative Group to Visit Border

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — In response to a lawsuit filed by the conservative political advocacy group CatholicVote to access communications between the Biden administration and Catholic humanitarian entities at the southern Texas-Mexico border, Sister Norma Pimentel encouraged the organization to come and see the work at the border for themselves.

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, is pictured in an undated photo holding her her godchild at the migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The baby’s birth, like most births at the camp, posed a risk to the mother and baby, as medical attention is not a given. (Photo: CNS/courtesy Sister Norma Pimentel)

“If you do that I’m certain that you will be touched just like I am to reach out and be present and care for the family, the child,” said Sister Norma, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley on March 1. “The kids that I see that were in detention centers crying with their faces full of fear telling me, ‘help me,’ and how can you turn away from that?”

[Related: Why Do Some Catholics Challenge Good Samaritans?]

The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 4 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and included two requests.

The first seeks access to all communication between U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Diocese of Brownsville, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (CCRGV), Sister Norma, and the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, which Sister Norma also leads.

The second seeks all communications between CBP and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops related to the CCRGV, Sister Norma, and the Humanitarian Respite Center.

“American Catholics deserve to know the full extent of our federal government’s role in funding and coordinating with Catholic Church-affiliated agencies at the border, and what role these agencies played in the record surge of illegal immigrants over the past year,” CatholicVote said on its website.

“We know every person, regardless of their legal status, deserves to be treated with dignity,” the CatholicVote statement from last month continues. “But that’s just it: Our border is in chaos … and Catholic-affiliated agencies are reportedly working directly with the federal government.”

According to the organization’s website, CatholicVote is an organization of “patriotic Americans” who believe that the Catholic faith is good for America. It also has a lobbying organization with a connected political action committee pushing a bipartisan, pro-Catholic agenda through political contributions.  

On Tuesday, Sister Norma suggested that the lawsuit has nothing to do with herself and others working at the border, but is instead aimed at the migrants that they help.

“Just caring and being human and expressing our humanity in good positive ways, revolutionizing kindness and care and compassion and tenderness, that’s what we’re about 100% and yet there’s people that are choosing to change all of that and make it as if it’s 100% political, which it’s not at all,” Sister Norma said.

Sister Norma made the comments at a Georgetown University Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life discussion, “The Francis Factor at Nine Years: Synodality and Solidarity, Reform and Resistance.” 

She also noted that CatholicVote is “misled or misunderstood in whatever it is that they think we are doing,” and again emphasized her hope that “those who feel against what we’re doing should just come and see.”