Watch this before you read:
I’m back in McAllen. Currently camped out at a Motel 6 waiting for checkout and to head back over to Catholic Charities where Sister Norma Pimentel, the “Pope’s favorite nun” along with an army of volunteers assists hundreds of migrants each day. Journalistically, this is a tough nut to crack. It’s busy. Oh so busy. The respite center is now housed in an old nursing home. When migrants get released from ICE custody, they’re brought here by the bus load. Like Team Brownsville, they make sure these folks have what they need for the next stage of the journey. A hot meal, a shower, clean clothes and clear directions on what they’re supposed to do to get where they’re going and their immigration responsibilities. When it’s time to go, instead of going to the station the buses come to them. It’s a beautiful controlled chaos with a central focus. Restore human dignity.
What makes it difficult as a journalist is that they don’t let people wander the halls shooting video and interview whomever. And rightfully so. Sister Norma is a local hero and considered to be the Mother Theresa of South Texas. She’s been featured and celebrated and lots of media folks with cameras want to get in there. I spoke with her briefly last week after the Trump visit. She was invited to be part of a round table discussion while he was there. What happened is that she ended up getting seated for a photo op and never spoken to. She said she wanted to jump up and say something when he was speaking, but she didn’t. I’m not sure she believed she made the right decision.
I showed up yesterday morning when I said I would, but the person I was supposed to meet wouldn’t arrive until later in the day. So the waiting game began. When I came back, the place was a crowded. A bus load of migrants was just dropped off. A second bus would soon follow. There was nobody who could spare a second to talk. I thought this was crazy. They thought it was Tuesday.
There would be no interview. So, I did what I could. I put the camera up and asked them to stick me somewhere I could be useful. That happened to be getting immersed in Spanish while helping men and boys get a fresh set of clothes for the next stage of their journeys. Truth be told, there is a great value in just jumping into the fray instead of trying to report from the outside or just get in and get out. It lends perspective and nuance. I’m in this for the long haul so I might as well do a little good and perhaps earn a little trust during my own journey.
Today, I’ll try again and see what lessons can be learned.