“As pro-lifers, we must stand with the vulnerable wherever and whenever we see them suffering.” Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa is the founder of the New Wave Feminists, and she is explaining to me how she came to be involved in organizing a fundraising drive for supplies for asylum seekers at the border. Living in Dallas, she and her fellow activists felt a responsibility to find out if they could help.
In December, the “ragtag secular lady gang” raised just under $10,000 to take two vanloads of supplies to the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, said Rachel Lamb, the director of humanitarian outreach for New Wave Feminists.
“We raised another $1,000 to have more toilet facilities built,” Lamb says. The group’s current campaign has a deadline of July 13 for another delivery.
“We are pro-life because we care about the inherent human dignity of every living person, inside the womb and out,” Herndon-De La Rosa says. She feels a heightened responsibility to not ignore the suffering at the border because “as a Texan … it’s happening in my backyard … All are vulnerable and all are human beings.”
The New Wave Feminists previously made headlines when they were denied a place at the Women’s March on Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration (for their anti-abortion views). Her efforts at the border are consistent with the tone she strikes on abortion: Let’s get to a place where both pro-life and pro-choice camps can support initiatives they agree on; in this case, it’s about making sure that conditions are safe and humane for mothers, children and families as they seek asylum in the United States.
Also consistent with this thinking, she tells me: “The people at the border are not ‘others.’ They’re not our enemy. Many of them are … people of faith, mothers and fathers, good, decent people just trying to escape a horrific situation. They are just like us.”
Lamb explains: “Over 50 nonprofit organizations are partnering with us to help meet the basic needs of families at the border. We are providing thousands of dollars’ worth of shoelaces. Because it is Border Patrol policy to confiscate the shoelaces, jewelry and rosaries of all asylum seekers, all 800 people arrive without shoelaces at the respite center every single day, including children and toddlers. Our generous donors maxed out the first Amazon wish list so quickly, we had to stop accepting in-kind donations because we didn’t have a van big enough to fit everything.”
Just before Independence Day, that need was answered by a sponsor with a trucking company who offered to donate an 18-wheeler and a driver. “I’ve worked for nonprofits for a decade,” Lamb says, “and this is my first experience of an in-kind donation of an 18-wheeler. We are stoked.”
When I ask Herndon-De La Rosa who are the faces from the border she’d like Americans to become more acquainted with, she names two: The first is Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen (a project of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley). “She tirelessly dedicates her days to making sure the families brought to her facility by (the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement) feel welcome and respected.”
The second person is a little boy, “who had to have been around my son’s age, playing with a toy truck on a sidewalk around dusk the night we left McAllen after our last supply drive. There he was, likely experiencing one of the most uncertain times of his young life, just rolling a Tonka truck around like a regular kid. Because he is a regular kid. My heart broke for him because I knew he had snuck away in order to find some peace and quiet at the overcrowded facility. And I knew in a few moments when the sun finally fell, he would have to go back into a packed room with 20 other people. I couldn’t imagine trying to get my son to bed under those types of conditions … sleeping on an inch-thick plastic mat, placed on a cold concrete floor, surrounded by strangers.”
Lamb says about that boy: “I can’t litigate his immigration hearing, but I can make sure he has pull-ups and a toothbrush.”
“We can all do something,” Herndon-De La Rosa asserts. Besides argue, that is.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at email@example.com.