Restoring Human Dignity on the Border: Caring for Immigrants and Refugees

A vision for a new Humanitarian Respite Center




Throughout Mexico and many Central American nations, organized crime, gang violence, and extreme poverty have forced hundreds of thousands of people—many of them women and children—to make the long and treacherous journey north to the U.S.-Mexico border. Seeking safety and economic opportunity, these asylum-seeking immigrants face tremendous hardship upon arriving in the United States and are forced to an immediate reality that strips them of their basic human dignity. In this time of crisis, providing migrants with hope for their future and working to restore their human dignity has become a national imperative. 
 
Rising to meet the urgent need presented by this humanitarian crisis, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (CCRGV), under the leadership of Executive Director Sister Norma Pimentel, has led the effort to care for immigrants and refugees on the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas for over four years. Inspired by their shared Catholic tradition that emphasizes care for the most vulnerable in our society, Catholic Charities, Sister Norma, and dedicated CCRGV volunteers and staff welcome them each day to the organization’s Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, a border town in Hidalgo County at the heart of the migration surge.
 
Answering the Call for Compassion and Care
Many asylum-seeking immigrants at the Texas-Mexico border are released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials at the bus terminal in McAllen as they aim to connect with family members and sponsors in cities as far away as Los Angeles and Chicago, to await for their due process. Providing basic resources such as food and clothing in addition to more advanced services such as legal orientation and medical assistance, CCRGV welcomes all immigrants—sometimes as many as 300 per day—as they rest and prepare to continue their difficult journey. To date, the center has served over 100,000 immigrants. 
 
Initially caring for migrants at a local church, CCRGV relocated these support services in 2017 and established the Humanitarian Respite Center in a former storefront near the McAllen bus terminal. As CCRGV continues to lead the humanitarian response to this immigration crisis, the need for care and support has far outpaced the capacity of the current facility. To continue to effectively serve, CCRGV plans to build a new Humanitarian Respite Center capable of serving all those who come to its door and bring respite to the most vulnerable.
 
Restoring Dignity and Providing Hope: Building a New Humanitarian Respite Center
Recognizing that immigrants continue to cross the Texas-Mexico border in large numbers, CCRGV understands firsthand the growing need for essential services that provide hope during emotionally daunting and physically exhausting times. Taking action to address this rising imperative, Catholic Charities has purchased land in the City of McAllen to build a new respite center that will better meet the needs of the families that CCRGV serves each day. Located only two blocks from McAllen’s main bus terminal, the new Humanitarian Respite Center at this site will be positioned to welcome and serve the most vulnerable as they continue to pursue a new life in the United States.
 
To engage both community members and architects from around the globe, CCRGV has launched an architectural design competition in support of the new respite center. All interested architects and firms are invited to submit designs for the new center based on the detailed space requirements outlined by Catholic Charities. These program requirements include spaces such as:

  • A spacious multi-purpose room designed to host welcome sessions, large meals, and overnight accommodations for up to 300 individuals
  • More advanced medical exam facilities, including a physician’s office for medical volunteers
  • Support spaces including an updated kitchen, an expanded laundry facility, and increased storage space
  • A dedicated chapel to provide space for worship and reflection
 
Selected by a panel of experts, the winning design will serve as a historically significant architectural symbol throughout the community and more broadly, the Americas. As a prominent beacon of hope, the Humanitarian Respite Center will showcase the compassion and collaboration demonstrated by the community—shining a light on the values expressed by Catholic Charities and CCRGV volunteers as they restore human dignity for countless deserving immigrants.
 
To realize this ambition for a new Humanitarian Respite Center, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley turns to the broad philanthropic community for support in this endeavor. Commitments from friends of CCRGV will directly back the construction of this newly designed center—enabling Catholic Charities to provide an even greater level of care for many years to come.  
 
With Appreciation
As you contemplate the impact you wish to have in the lives of thousands of immigrant families, Catholic Charities is grateful for your consideration of support for this national imperative to care for our neighbors in need. The care that CCRGV provides for migrants and refugees—restoring human dignity and providing hope—is made possible by the generous pledge from individuals and organizations who share Catholic Charities’ commitment to serving the most vulnerable. On behalf of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and Executive Director Sister Norma Pimentel, thank you for your consideration.    
 
Making a Gift
To make a gift, you may donate through our DONATE NOW button. To discuss making a leadership-level commitment, please contact: Michelle Nunez, Humanitarian Respite Center, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, (956) 702-8450 | mnunez@cdob.org.


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