If Donald Trump's venomously anti-immigration rhetoric has you doubting the United States' historic empathy for refugees, look no further than McAllen, TX. A small town located just north of the Rio Grande border, McAllen became a pivotal safe haven for the tens of thousands of Central American immigrants who fled to the U.S. in 2014 seeking asylum. Rival gangs throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras escalated the shocking violence in a battle for control over local drug routes, targeting women and children as the victims of their atrocities.
Since then, McAllen's Sacred Heart Church has become a critical relief center for these families, many of whom have endured unspeakable horrors and still face the heartbreaking possibility of deportation. Thanks to Sister Norma Pimentel, the undaunted leader of the church's assistance program, Sacred Heart provides newly arrived immigrants with showers, clothing, shoes, beds, and the emotional support they need to start rebuilding their lives.
Though the shocking numbers of asylum-seekers streaming across the border have not decreased since 2014, the media's interest in their dire situation has largely dried up. Evelyn and her baby, Arleen, exemplify the continued struggles of these asylum-seekers. Braving the terrifying journey towards the Texas border, Evelyn brought her daughter to the United States to reunite with her mother, who moved to Virginia 10 years ago in search of a better life for herself and her family back in Central America. Though Arleen suffers from a heart condition, Evelyn still dreams of giving her a better life in America, untouched by the cruelty by El Salvador's gang crisis.
Watch the video, above, to learn more about their incredible story, and help sister Norma continue to care for these families by donating here.
About Behind the Headlines
Refinery29’s original series “Behind the Headlines” takes an in-depth, human look at the policy debates dominating the global news media, from American immigration reform to the continuing struggles of Syrian refugees and Afghanistan’s lingering gender inequality crisis. Bypassing the pundits, we’re dedicated to spotlighting the stories of the people whose lives have been profoundly impacted by these issues, and believe that their voices must be heard.