By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
NEW YORK — A migrant respite center run by “the pope’s favorite nun” has been ordered to vacate their premises within 90 days.
City commissions in McAllen, Texas issued the order earlier this week to Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (CCRGV), which is headed by Sister Norma Pimentel.
In 2015, Pope Francis publicly praised Sister Pimentel’s work, and they have since met on several occasions.
“I am disappointed with today’s decision but thankful for the continued support of the City of McAllen, the wonderful community, and Mayor Jim Darling,” said Sister Norma Pimentel, CCRGV director, in a Feb. 13 statement.
“We greatly appreciate the opportunity provided by the City to have time to move forward and find a new location. We will continue to work in partnership with the City of McAllen in efforts to treat immigrant families in a just and humane way and ensure they are in compliance with existing immigration laws.”
Officials said the order was issued following complains from neighbors of the center. Although Mayor Jim Darling voted with the city commissioners to move the center, he has publicly committed to finding it a new home.
The center is currently housed in a former nursing home and has hosted hundreds of migrants and refugees crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Since it first opened in 2014, it has changed locations on several occasions in order to provide meals, showers, and care to for the growing number of new arrivals.
On Twitter, Brownsville Bishop Daniel Flores said “The decision of the McAllen City Commission was disheartening for many, yet, I continue to have hope in our collaborative relation with the City.”
He said the diocese and Catholic Charities are committed to finding a new location to continue the work of the Respite Center.News of the city’s decision to move the Center comes at a time where immigration continues to be a national debate, particularly over funding for President Donald Trumps’ proposed border wall.
Pimentel has consistently opposed the border wall, saying that it is a distraction from the real needs of individuals on both sides of the border.