Emiliano Lerda: A growing Nebraska nonprofit with faith roots focuses on free legal aid for immigrants

faithandleadership.com | 9/17/2019 | Staff
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When lawyer and executive director Emiliano Lerda looks back on his own immigration from Argentina to Nebraska, he sees how crucial moments and people made it all possible.

Through fortuitous meetings, he received full scholarships for both his B.A. and his J.D. A financial aid director took special interest in helping him attend the University of Northern Iowa, and a law professor urged him to apply to Drake Law School. Both directed him toward dreams and supported him with the resources to attain them.

Genesis - Desire - Lerda

“That was the genesis of this very, very strong desire to pay it forward,” Lerda said.

Decades later, he has dedicated his life to other immigrants at the Immigrant Legal Center based in Omaha, Nebraska. He aims to be a similar source of help for immigrants who need legal aid and cannot pay for it.

Organization - Initiative - United - Methodist - Committee

The organization, started in 1999 as an initiative of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has expanded into an independent legal center with 48 full-time staff and 3,800 cases last year.

The success of the organization has been a result of keeping sight of its “true north”: free, quality legal aid for vulnerable immigrants.

Lerda - Faith - Leadership - Chris - Karnadi

Lerda talked to Faith & Leadership’s Chris Karnadi about the organization’s growth, the importance of keeping its mission sharply focused, and how “The Bridges of Madison County” started him on his journey to Omaha. The following is an edited transcript.

Faith & Leadership: What’s the goal of the Immigrant Legal Center?

Emiliano - Lerda - Mission - Immigrants - Community

Emiliano Lerda: Our mission is to welcome immigrants to the community by providing high-quality legal services, education and advocacy. We primarily function as a nonprofit law firm.

We also do educational presentations to the immigrant community and to the non-immigrant community. The immigrant community presentations are “know your rights” presentations, emergency preparedness. The presentations for the community are typically more about the realities and basics...
(Excerpt) Read more at: faithandleadership.com
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