Catholic Charities says La Joya incident was ‘an isolated case’

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Sister Norma Pimentel says policies preventing isolation of COVID positive migrants could lead to catastrophic outcomes

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the RGV, helps migrants who crossed from Matamoros, Mexico, into Brownsville, Texas, on Feb. 26, 2021. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

MCALLEN, Texas (KVEO) — Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley released a statement following the recent actions from state and local officials on the care of migrants.

Chatholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (CCRGV) with the support and partnership of our exceptional community in McAllen and the greater Rio Grande Valley, including the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), have worked tirelessly to provide humanitarian assitance to the many immigrant families who have been given permssion to be in the United states.

Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley

The statement continues to say that the center has worked with city and county officials to establish a COVID-19 testing facility. It mentioned the percentage of positive cases has been low.

“…We take the necessary measures to make sure the families who have a family member test COVID positive are isolated with the family in hotels designated for quarantine. Even though most of the family often tests COVID negative, mostly, the family chooses to remain together with the family member that tests COVID positive.”

On Tuesday, the La Joya Police Department held a press conference expressing concern after encountering a group of migrants at a local fast food restaurant that had been released from Border Patrol custody and to Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, who then obtained hotel rooms for the individuals. Those migrants told police they had tested positive for COVID-19.

The charity then works with those families so that they remain in isolation until they test negative, the statement reads. Adding they are also provided with care so that they are not required to leave the room.

“At no time have the COVID positive immigrant families walking around exposing others in the community. They are kept in isolation until they test negative,” reads the statement. “The La Joya incident is an isolated case, in a new location, we had just begun to use. This one incident has caused a great deal of misinformation and unfortunately serious consequences that threaten our community with catastrophic outcomes if we can’t continue to isolate and care for the families.”

Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order restricting the ground transportation of migrants that may pose a risk of having COVID-19.

The statement goes on to say that “any law or policy that contributes to human suffering is wrong and needs to be corrected.”

I urge state and local leaders to reconsider their actions and work with us and other community partners to help ensure that all individuals, wheter lon-term community memebers or newcomers fleeing violance are treated with diginity and that together we work to keep our community safe.

Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley

The order from Abbott directs the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to stop any vehicle upon suspicion that it is a violation of the order and send the vehicle back to its point of origin. It also allows DPS to impound the vehicle that violates the order or that refuses to be rerouted.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez has also released a statement following the La Joya incident.

We have been doing well as a community in slowing the spread of this deadly virus… But ill-conceived policies by both the federal and state governments are beginning to have serious consequences on Hidalgo County. I call on federal immigration officials to stop releasing infected migrants into our community and I am further calling on Governor Abbott to return to Hidalgo County the safety tools he took away that would help us slow the spread of this disease.

RICHARD CORTEZ, JUDGE OF HIDALGO COUNTY

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