Help refugees at the border and improve life in El Salvador
Maryknoll lay missioner Heidi Cerneka serves as an immigration attorney with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas. In her new ministry at the border, she helps serve the legal needs of immigrants, including refugees and asylum seekers. In the El Paso immigration courts, where only 3 to 7 percent of asylum claims are granted, it is an uphill battle, but Heidi’s skill and tenacity made the difference for Ugandan asylum seeker Zam, who had fled government persecution and violence and whose asylum case Heidi recently won. Watch a video on Heidi’s ministry here. The U.S. government’s constantly changing rules continue to curtail the rights of asylum seekers at the border, and during her first year in El Paso, Heidi has had to constantly adjust and expand her ministry’s focus.
Meanwhile, Maryknoll lay missioners in El Salvador wrestle with the root causes that have been driving Salvadorans to leave their country. Gang murders, shootings, violence, extortion and threats are common in many of the communities where our missioners work. Peter Altman, Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ regional director in El Salvador, says, “We are helping to create a better future and more opportunities for people here.” Our lay missioners serve internally displaced Salvadorans at secret church-run shelters and are engaged in educational programs with at-risk youth and programs with small farmers; they are creating business opportunities for women and providing educational assistance, working with nutritional programs, accompanying small Christian communities and reaching out to people who are homeless—including many who were deported from the U.S. Watch this video on our missioners’ work in El Salvador.