Sister Norma Pimentel of the Missionaries of Jesus is executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, Tex.
Last week, we learned of the first coronavirus case here in the migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico.
Take a moment, please, and pause to consider how remarkable this is in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. The city of Matamoros itself has recorded 1,200 cases; across the Rio Grande, 7,600 are known in the four nearby Texas counties.
Our camp is a makeshift “tent city” filled with about 1,500 vulnerable women, men and children awaiting rulings on their applications for asylum in the United States. These families are living in donated tents at the mercy of extreme weather. Here, the temperatures can rise above 100 degrees, and when it rains, the downpours knock down their only refuge and leave them in mud pits. Imagine living in such uncertainty, where even such basics as running water and a place to shower are nonexistent; where you have to depend on outside organizations for food, which you have to cook over a campfire. Like the prisons and nursing homes that have been breeding grounds for the virus in the United States, the camp is crowded with people who for now are not going anywhere.