Immigrant Legal Center Receives Resounding Support from Community 10/3/18 10/03/18 11:49:40 AM
Host committe member Maria Fernandez (left) and her friend, Barb Schlott, enjoy some of the offerings at the Food Truck World Tour. (Photo by Lorraine Boyd)
Immigrant Legal Center Receives Resounding Support from Community
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
In its four-year history, the Food Truck World Tour has weathered heat, cold and icy rain. But 2018 delivered perfect weather for the annual event of the Immigrant Legal Center (ILC), formerly known as Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska.
On a beautiful, sunny Wednesday evening last week, the center welcomed a record 500 guests at a new venue, the newly renovated Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology at Metro Community College’s Fort Omaha campus.
And, best of all, the event raised more than $200,000 for ILC.
“We were humbled and moved by the tremendous amount of encouragement and generosity we received,” Executive Director Emiliano Lerda said.
The event featured food trucks serving Mexican, African, Italian, Venezuelan and good ol’ American dishes, offering something for every palate. Trucks from Maria Bonita Mexican Cuisine, Chaima African Cuisine, Dante Pizzeria Napoletana, El Arepòn Venezuela Food and Omaha Steaks were parked outside serving up dinner.
Inside, guests were entertained by performers representing different world cultures, a fitting choice as ILC regularly deals with people from around the globe.
“We wanted our guests to experience a bit of world culture,” Lerda said.
The Lunaris Dance Group displayed traditional Vietnamese dances, whose origins go back to ancient times. Flamenco Omaha followed with dances from Spanish culture, which were influenced by many traditions including Latin American, Cuban and Jewish.
The evening’s entertainment was wrapped up by the Chrysalis Studio of Belly Dance, featuring dance traditions of the Middle East.
The highlight of the evening was a first-hand look at the work the center does, as presented by one of their success stories.
Angela Escobar was 12 years old when she left her home in El Salvador six years ago to build a better life in the United States. Her reasons for leaving were many, all filled with hopelessness.
“My country is well-known for its violent gangs and the atrocities that they commit on a daily basis,” she said. “My second oldest brother, although he was not a gang member, was involved in various gang-related activities. He was a very violent person, especially when he was under the influence of drugs. Witnessing how my brother’s lifestyle was slowly destroying his life was one of the reasons why I left my country. I wanted a better life for myself.
“Out of all the reasons I have for leaving, my main reason is my mother. She was born with a mental disability, she acts and thinks like a child and on occasions she was aggressive towards me. But besides all this, I am overwhelmingly proud of her and love her for who she is.”
Her bid for freedom was short-lived. Border Patrol agents stopped the band of people she was trying to cross the border with. It turned out to be a blessing.
“I was at the risk of death from starvation and dehydration, and they saved my life,” she said.
After she and her cousin were allowed to travel to Nebraska, they sought out Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska for help negotiating the legal challenges they faced.
“We met Charles Ellison and his team, who helped my family and I throughout my legal case,” Escobar said. “I am very thankful for the tremendous help I received. Without them, I doubt I would be here right now.
“Also, I am very thankful to the Immigration Court system for allowing me to stay in the United States and giving me the opportunity to get an education and make my dreams come true. Now, thanks to all the help I’ve received, I graduated from high school last year and I am currently a full-time student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha pursuing a medical career. … Thanks to everyone who has been there throughout my journey.”
Angela Escobar’s story illustrates what the ILC is striving to accomplish.
“This is the second time she has shared her experience,” Lerda said. “The first was this spring when she testified to the Nebraska Legislature to support Special Immigrant Juvenile status, an important protection for vulnerable immigrant youth. We asked her to share her story tonight.”
ILC is a non-profit immigration legal firm needs donations to continue to service its clients – immigrants with low incomes and no other option for legal services. Throughout the evening, guests were encouraged to review the suggested gifts, which ranged from $31, which would pay for one hour of initial legal advice, to $5,000, which would fund work with two asylum seekers, cases that may take several years to complete.
Lerda acknowledged and thanked the event’s honorary chairs – Betiana and Todd Simon – and the host committee co-chairs, Denise and Hobson Powell and Emily and Craig Moody.
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