Non-Profit Immigration Legal Aid Opening | News


GOSHEN — A nonprofit legal aid is opening up between Goshen and Elkhart.

“La Posada,” which translates to “the inn” or “the refuge,” in Spanish, is rooted in the Mennonite Anabaptist belief of Matthew 25:35 that Christians should welcome newcomers and immigrants.

“When you go to a new city, you feel out of place,” said La Posada founder Naun Cerrato. “Remember when Mary and Joseph were looking for a place to stay but they had nowhere to stay. All the doors were closed because they were strangers to this city. When Marie and Joseph were looking for a hotel, no one welcomed them, so they had to sleep with the animals.

The Posada will provide immigration resources to communities in Elkhart County through written materials, legal advice, and referrals in a faith-based setting experienced as welcoming and safe and focused on service to our vulnerable neighbors.

“Using this biblical approach, if you say you are a Christian, you absolutely must have a clear understanding of what the stranger means and how do we welcome you, whether you are from Australia, Canada, England, how do we welcome them?” Cerrat said. “How can we tell them that the United States has certain laws imposed on you – procedures, compliance and certain steps? La Posada is here to answer these questions.”

Cerrato added that just because the organization is based on religion doesn’t mean its customers have to follow the same religious principles.

“Our value was based on religious principles,” he said. “We’re not saying you have to be this particular religion – we welcome everyone, no matter who you are. We are not here to evangelize people. We are here to provide immigration services.

La Posada does not intend to replace traditional legal services.

“We are not here to be the light of the universe,” he said. “We’re just here to help, a little bit, other people who are already doing the same thing.”

The income-based nonprofit, however, wants to make an impact in the community by making sure that, if nothing else, people know what action to take.

“Immigration laws are very complex and we at La Posada want to make sure that we are not here just to exploit immigrants,” Cerrato said. “It’s not about how much you can pay. It’s about how we can help you understand this complexity of immigration law.

The board of directors, made up of lawyers and pastors from many backgrounds and nationalities, is already in place, but La Posada cannot officially open until they hire an office manager and a lawyer who specializes in immigration.

“If we have an avocado today, we can open tomorrow,” Cerrato said, adding that they hope to open in early April.

The intention is to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., although staff availability determines opening hours.

“La Posada is not here to change the law,” he said. “La Posada is not there to create new laws. The Posada is actually here to obey the law by asking, “How do we help newcomers obey the law?” That’s why we are here. It is our goal and our mission that when you come to our door, you will not feel rejected. You will feel welcomed.

“We’re not asking you how much money you make or why you’re here – no, no, not at all. When you walk through those doors, we want to make sure we answer your immigration questions. We want to be sure that you are satisfied with the service. Our staff will not be based on the amount of money they can earn.

The Posada, located inside the Sunnyside Mennonite Church, will have two rooms, one for the office manager or receptionist, and another for the immigration attorney. The rooms also have spaces for the children of the guests.

“The scriptures say we should welcome the stranger,” Cerrato said. “We obey the Word of God and Jesus Christ by welcoming the stranger and offering him hospitality.”

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