‘As pro-lifers we must stand with the vulnerable wherever and whenever we see them suffering.” Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa is founder of the New Wave Feminists, and she is explaining to me how she came to be involved — not for the first time — 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 what was going on and whether people had needs that they could help meet.
In December, “our ragtag secular lady gang” raised just under $10,000 dollars to take two van loads of supplies to the Humanitarian Respite Center” in McAllen, Texas, Rachel Lamb, director of Humanitarian Outreach for New Wave Feminists explains. (They were encouraged by the director of the center to bring the supplies and help process the gifts themselves, because volunteers are stretched there.) “We raised another $1,000 to have more toilet facilities built.” Their current campaign has a deadline of July 13 for another delivery.
“We are pro-life because we care about the inherit human dignity of every living person, inside the womb and out,” Herndon-De La Rosa says. She feels a heightened responsibility to not look away from people at the border because “as a Texan . . . it’s happening in my backyard,” she notes. “All are vulnerable and all are human beings.”
New Wave Feminists previously made headlines when, owing to their anti-abortion views, they were denied a place at the Women’s March on Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Herndon-De La Rosa’s efforts at the border are consistent with the tone she strikes on abortion: Let’s get to a place where we support initiatives we can agree on; in this case, it’s about making sure conditions are safe and humane for mothers and children and families as they seek asylum in the U.S.
Herndon-De La Rosa and her New Wave Feminists want our society to ultimately see abortion as unthinkable — which is only going to come with establishing more credibility and trust than people across the political aisles and labels on abortion currently have.
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. . . . We have a two-party system that’s broken, and it’s not going to be fixed overnight. We have to be there to fill in the gaps where we can.
The New Wave Feminists’ Bottles to the Border 2.0 campaign began as the media debated Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s remark about the detention centers at the border being “concentration camps.” Having previously learned how quickly the respite center runs through donations, New Wave Feminists decided it was time to go back down to McAllen. 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 non-profits for a decade,” Lamb says, “and this is my first experience of an in-kind donation of 18-wheeler. We are stoked.”
When I ask Herndon-De La Rosa who from the border she’d like Americans to become more acquainted with, she names two, starting with Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen (a project of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley). Herndon-De La Rosa says:
She tirelessly dedicates her days to making sure the families brought to her facility by ICE feel welcome and respected. The second 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. . . . 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 emphasizes about their campaign. Besides argue, that is.
This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.