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Transcript: Sister Norma Pimentel on "Face the Nation"

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sister Norma Pimentel, the executive director of the Catholic Charities of Rio Grande Valley, that aired Sunday, April 17, 2022, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: The number of migrants crossing the US southern border has already hit a record in March, and we aren't even at peak migration season. We want to go now to Sister Norma Pimentel, the executive director of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. Good morning to you, Sister. Happy Easter.
SISTER NORMA PIMENTEL: Good morning to you, too.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We know all of these numbers are expected to climb in the coming weeks after some of those health restrictions are peeled back at the border. Are you prepared for what is to come?
SISTER PIMENTEL: I- most definitely, you know, what is happening is has happened for a while already. So many years, numbers have increased. But I'm not focused on- on Title 42 for, say, a more focused ensuring that those families who are at our border that I see daily are- are who face violence, face persecution, can have access to protection and- and to a- a humane treatment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you wrote in an op-ed last year you made an appeal for president Biden to come down personally to see some of what you are describing. He hasn't been there yet. What impact do you think a personal experience would have?
SISTER PIMENTEL: I definitely believe that somebody- everybody should come to the border so that they have- can have an opportunity to see our community and the people we serve. If they can get a- a seat for themselves and meet families. I think that- that impacts somebody's way of looking at what is happening. And so I definitely encourage president Biden's to come and see and to- and to be able to understand more closely what a family that is suffering at the border, how he must decide how- how to proceed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you've spoken out as well about something called the migrant protection protocols, the "Remain in Mexico" policy that I know the Supreme Court is about to take up later this month. And this would allow for asylum seekers who are trying to get into the United States to have to stay on the Mexican side of the border while they go through U.S. processing. You said it is immoral- immoral and abhorrent to deter people who are legally and peacefully seeking safety in the United States by deliberately exposing them to the very perils that they are hoping to escape. Can you tell us what are those conditions and what safe alternatives are there?
SISTER PIMENTEL: I visit the border on the Mexican side almost daily, and what I see is families suffering because of the fact that there is a lot of abuse for that- to them. And the conditions are terrible and very dangerous. The children being exposed to- to being kidnapped, to be snatched, to be hurt. And so it's not right for us to do this. I think that someone who faces violence fears for their lives, for their children's. There needs to be a way to- to access protection. And that's something that we as a nation can offer to them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would like to see them housed on the U.S. side of the border rather than the Mexican side?
SISTER PIMENTEL: I believe that we as a country can find ways to be able to offer protection. That could be the U.S. side. Most definitely. They're asking for protection and they're fearing for their lives. There needs to be a way to be able to access that protection. And- and there's not anything now. And so whatever that answer is, I think, is something that we can work to make it happen, because these families are in great danger.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We are still in the midst of this public health crisis. And I know the federal government has relied a lot on organizations like yours to help carry out COVID tests for those migrants who do cross the border and recently have started to offer them vaccines as well. How does someone who is undocumented even prove that they are vaccinated? How do you reassure American people at home that there isn't a health risk?
SISTER PIMENTEL: Because we at the border are making sure that anyone that enters the country is- is being offered that safety, that- that- that care, so that if they are exposed to the virus, they can get- be isolated and they can receive that care so that they don't enter our country and spread the virus anywhere else. And so I think that my- the partnership that I have here in the Rio Grande Valley with our our law enforcement, our- our government, the city government in McAllen and the Border Patrol, we work together to make sure that we address this correctly. And there is not that- that fear- there should not be that fear for- for what is a people that are entering our country. I think that- that we must help us understand differently what the border is like. You come and visit and see for yourself and- and understand our community and how we work and also how the people we serve.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you're not a political person. You are a humanitarian. But the work Catholic Charities does with children in particular who have crossed the border got some sharp criticism recently from a conspiracy theorist in this country, Alex Jones. And I understand Pope Francis heard about what was happening in his criticism of you. And I want to share with our viewers his personal message to you. He said in a video, the migrants must be received, they must be protected, they must be accompanied, and they must be integrated. Four things: receive, protect, accompany, integrate. What did that personal message mean to you?
SISTER PIMENTEL: It reaffirmed the fact that we as a country must have that heart to welcome those that are fear for their lives and to offer them protection, offer them a humanitarian response that cares for humanity and for especially those that- who are most vulnerable and fragile and hurting at our border.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, Sister, thank you for leaving us on that note this Easter. We'll be right back.