Charles Kamasaki (Unidos US) & Sister Norma Pimentel (Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley) engaged in a timely conversation exploring immigrants' rights in the US, including how they have historically been understood and changed over time, and the current policy decisions that drive today's US immigration issues. Charles Kamasaki shared a national perspective and Sister Norma Pimentel gave first hand accounts of what is happening at the Texas-Mexico border, including the impact of these policies on thousands of families each year. Their addresses were followed by a moderated conversation with Q&A facilitated by Frances Valdez, Executive Director of Houston in Action.
About the Presenters
Charles Kamasaki is Senior Cabinet Advisor of UnidosUS, formerly the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). Previously the Executive Vice President of NCLR, Kamasaki for two decades managed the group’s research, policy analysis, and advocacy activity. He has authored, co-authored, and supervised the preparation of dozens of policy and research reports, journal articles, and editorials, testified frequently at Congressional and Administrative hearings, coordinated pro bono litigation and legal analysis, and represented the organization at research and policy conferences and symposia. Kamasaki is also a Resident Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, where he conducted research that produced the book, Immigration Reform: The Corpse That Will Not Die (Mandel-Vilar Press, 2019), about the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and its follow-on bill the Immigration Act of 1990, the last comprehensive immigration reforms enacted into law.
Norma Pimentel, a Sister with the Missionaries of Jesus, is Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley for over 12 years. She oversees the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville, providing oversight of different ministries & services in the Rio Grande Valley through emergency assistance, homelessness prevention, disaster relief, clinical counseling, pregnancy care, food programs, and the Humanitarian Respite Center. Sister Norma has been recognized by many organizations for her humanitarian work on the US-Mexico border overseeing the provision of a safe space for migrants to rest and regain strength. Most recently Pope Francis sent her a video message encouraging her and all the volunteers to continue their work. She was also named to the 2020 TIME100 list of the most influential people in the world.
Moderator Frances Valdez (she/her) is the Executive Director of Houston in Action, a collective impact initiative that believes that by working together to reduce systemic barriers we can increase civic participation in the greater Houston region. Their collective work is moved by the shared ethos that, regardless of social identity, people should have equal opportunities to participate in, and have a meaningful impact, on civic life. In 2020, Valdez engaged Houston in Action to be a leader in the first-of-its-kind 2020 Census coordination and historic 2020 election coordination in Harris County. In 2021, that work continued post-Census to include coordinating efforts for equitable Covid vaccination access in Harris County, the creation of Unity Maps with member organizations to affect redistricting lines, and the implementation and funding of Black, Latinx and AAPI Grassroots Organizing Cohorts in Houston. Prior to starting Houston in Action, Valdez had a 13-year career as an immigration attorney, advocacy and policy advisor, director, and civic engagement coordinator within the immigrant rights movement.