McALLEN — When it came to the humanitarian respite center needing a commercial washer and dryer for the immigrant families sheltered at the facility here, the Washington Redskins’ Josh Norman had them covered Thursday.
The famed cornerback was in town this week to meet with the families and donate $18,000 to pay for the appliances.
Sister Norma Pimentel of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which operates the center, was grateful for the donation.
“ Kudos to Josh Norman with the Washington Redskins for visiting the humanitarian respite center/McAllen today and contributing to our response to restore human dignity,” she said via Twitter on Thursday.
Prior to the ceremonial check presentation, Norman toured the facility and spoke to the staff of volunteers in addition to the families being cared for at the center. Norman, who appeared especially concerned for the immigrant children, expressed the need for more people to embrace these families.
Norman is one of many national figures who’ve visited the border community during immigration crises going back last year, when President Trump’s zero tolerance policy separated immigrant families.
Those who’ve visited McAllen to show support for immigrant families include Evan Rachel Wood, Kerry Kennedy and Cristela Alonzo.
Also, Norman — together with New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis — visited the Valley in April to see the National Butterfly Center in Mission, where border wall construction is scheduled, and the respite center and McAllen bus terminal, where immigrants are taken following their temporary stay, en route to their final destination.
Locally, the respite center has become a polarizing topic among residents. In McAllen, concerns from several citizens living in the vicinity of the now former home of the respite center, which was located at 209 W. Hackberry Ave., prompted commissioners earlier this year to order that Catholic Charities vacate the city-owned building.
The city later assisted Catholic Charities in finding the current location, where Norman visited, at 15th Street and Austin Avenue in McAllen and just across the street from the bus station. But criticism emerged once again over the city of McAllen serving as the applicant on the permit for the center’s new 31,000-square-foot accommodations, to which officials have since responded that similar permits have been issued in the past, and that Catholic Charities will remain the tenant.
Meanwhile, city officials are optimistic of the Senate-approved migrant aid bill pushed by Sen. John Cornyn to reimburse local governments and non-governmental entities for incurring the financial burden created when federal authorities drop off asylum-seekers in border cities.
Local officials, such as McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, have long tried to reason with residents who’ve accused McAllen of being a sanctuary city for helping accommodate these mostly Central American families who are in the country legally seeking asylum, reminding that without a nonprofit and facility like Catholic Charities and the respite center, respectively, groups of hungry and restless immigrants would have to fend for themselves on city streets.
For Pimentel, Norman’s passion to assist the immigrants at the center is an example of the humanitarian efforts needed to continue caring for those fleeing persecution and violence from their homelands.
“ It was very good to see that he showed interest in helping the families, and wanting to help those people who are hurting,” Pimentel said Thursday before remarking about Norman and the children connecting well with each other. “He asked how he could help, and we said we needed washing machines. He said, ‘No problem, I’ll get them for you.’”