The Rio Grande Valley’s own icon was recognized as an honoree on TIME 100’s annual list of most influential people.
Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro nominated Sister Norma Pimentel for her humanitarian work with migrants during the influx of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border over the last half decade.
Castro, in his recognition of Pimentel, praised Pimentel’s unwavering compassion for migrants arriving at the border and specifically the impact of her work in the last four years.
“Her work has taken on greater importance in the era of Donald Trump, and for good reason. As he has acted with cruelty toward migrants, she has acted with compassion. As he has preyed on the vulnerable and sought rejection, she has preached community and acceptance. As he has promoted fear, she has taught love,” Castro said on TIME’s website.
This is not the first recognition the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley has received for her humanitarian work — with notable praise from Pope Francis over the last six years.
As part of the 2020 list of most influential people, specifically Pimentel is listed as an ICON on TIME’s 100, which included a list of some of the year’s most recognizable figures, including renown professor Angela Davis, and superstar athlete Naomi Osaka to name a few.
On Wednesday, TIME streamed a previously recorded interview with Pimentel, and Castro, during which they answered questions about their collective work, Castro with immigration policies, and Pimentel about her work at the respite center.
Castro noted in the interview, he nominated Pimentel because of her tireless work and leadership with regard to the respite center.
“…She has been devoted to treating every single human being she comes into contact with, people seeking a better life on this side of the border, with compassion, and easing their pain and suffering just a little bit more. And she’s done that in a very helpless way with the help of a lot of people, but also with tremendous leadership, and I think that’s very deserving of recognition especially in these times,” Castro said.
She also responded to questions related to the use of migrants in political discourse with regard to immigration policy.
Pimentel recounted an encounter with a member of the community during a trip to the grocery store, and having to dispel the negative misconceptions placed on the migrants and families arriving at the border and the respite center.
Pimentel highlighted the migrants that she encounters on a daily basis, and expressed a message of optimism for governments with relation to migration patterns and its causes.
As always, Pimentel’s message was rooted in positivity, and love, and focusing on the “goodness,” and how to make the world a better place.
“…We need to move forward to a world where we are more connected, united, with each other, work together, move away from this hatred, and everything that has put a hold on us, on the world overall,” Pimentel said. “Our country needs to work with other countries; countries that work together, that focus on the goodness of life.”
In response to her recognition on TIME’s list, Pimentel stated she hoped the accolade would bring more attention to the struggles of migrants across the world.
“It helps bring the plight of immigrants to the forefront and makes people aware of how critical it is that we do something. I hope this recognition is key to help us put a stop to policies that hurt humanity,” Pimentel said. “I hope to have more opportunities to speak about the realities I witness daily and help people see with new eyes and move them to action.”
She ended the roughly 20-minute interview with a plea for unity during trying times.
“We’re all hurting, COVID has taught us that there’s no boundaries, we’re all the same, we’re affected exactly the same, we’re vulnerable, and fragile, it shows us how united we must be to be able to be a better community, a better world,” Pimentel said.