The event highlighted the importance of fostering hope for immigrants in the city’s diverse communities.

Esperanza Immigration Legal Services (EILS), a non-profit organization in North Philadelphia dedicated to supporting immigrants, held its annual fundraiser, «Celebrating Hope for Immigrants: Our Shared Humanity,» on May 30th. Driven by its mission to empower the Hispanic community, EILS provides free legal services to low-income families and immigrants.

Established in 2009 by Rev. Luis Cortés, founder and CEO of Esperanza, along with the Philadelphia Hispanic Clergy, the organization emerged after years of advocating for immigration reform and preventing unlicensed notaries from abusing immigrants.

Under the current leadership of attorney Anu Susan Thomas, EILS’ Executive Director, the organization continues to offer a wide range of legal services, including naturalization, permanent residency applications and renewals, DACA renewals, family-based petitions and humanitarian relief forms, among others. «This work is important, it is urgent and it must be shared by all of us,» emphasized Thomas.

Anu Susan Thomas, EILS Executive Director. (Photo: Leticia Roa Nixon)

The event highlighted the importance of fostering hope for immigrants in the city’s diverse communities. Amidst ongoing global humanitarian crises, the transformative power of legal services was emphasized to create a better life for immigrants, with an emphasis on dignity and a sense of humanity. «These are the threads that weave the fabric of who we are, and we honor what we have in common: a shared humanity,» expressed the Executive Director.

Anu Susan Thomas, EILS Executive Director. (Photo: Leticia Roa Nixon)

Professor Michele Pistone, founder and director of Villanova University’s Strategic Initiative for Migrants and Refugees and the VIISTA Program, was one of the honorees at the fundraising event. In her speech, Pistone emphasized the importance of recognizing the shared humanity among all individuals, especially in the context of global migration.

«I believe this shared humanity perspective is key to immigration change,» stated the professor and lawyer. «When we think about global migration, we may feel overwhelmed by the statistics and media headlines. For example, we see 3.5 million pending cases in immigration court, but if we come to appreciate that behind each number is an individual, a human being, and that person’s family, then we can help them achieve their hopes and dreams.»

Will García, the city’s first director of the Latino engagement office. (Photo: Leticia Roa Nixon)

The lawyer shared that this is why she loves her work, as she takes her immigrant students to understand each other. She notes that hope is a powerful force and that working with her immigrant clients has made her realize that this hope for a better future is what keeps them going and guides them through their darkest moments. Pistone received the EILS Champion Award, in recognition of her outstanding work in the field of migration and human rights.

Attorney Michael Malvey, chairman of EILS’ board of directors, was captivated by this small organization with a tight budget for 12 years. «We have a lot of work to do,» he said.

Walter Toliver, senior vice president and general counsel of Esperanza, also serves on EILS’ board of directors. His presence at the event reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to defending immigrant rights.

The third honoree, presented as a surprise through a video by Rev. Luis Cortés Jr., was Kenneth George.

The story of a Venezuelan immigrant

Jackmeli is an immigrant who arrived from Venezuela with her son and fortunately found a welcoming community in her church and the cultural environment of North Philadelphia. However, «the language barrier made it harder for me to adapt and integrate into this new environment. But I was motivated to become a citizen so that I could visit and support my sick father in Venezuela.» She got married and had a daughter, and now Jackmeli is helping her children achieve their dreams.

The honoree of the EILS Civic Impact Award was Dr. Jack Ludmir, Medical Executive Director of Temple Women & Families Campus and Interim Chair of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Services at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine. In his speech, he mentioned the story of the Honduran immigrant Maria, whose two sons were murdered by gangs in her home country.

Facing death threats, Maria decided to emigrate to the United States and was raped during the journey. She met Dr. Jack during her pregnancy. Her son has a congenital condition. Surprised to see her always with a smile, the doctor asked her how she managed to maintain her joy, to which she replied: «Thanks to angels like you.»

The third honoree, presented as a surprise through a video by Rev. Luis Cortés Jr., was Kenneth George, who has dedicated himself to immigration causes for nearly 30 years. Thanks in large part to his generous donations to Esperanza, the non-profit organization was founded and the EILS program was also started.

Alyana Gómez, master of ceremonies and reporter for 6ABC Action News. (Photo: Leticia Roa Nixon)

The event was hosted by Alyana Gómez, a reporter for 6ABC Action News, who expressed, «It was an honor to be a part of the fundraiser for immigrants, who are important members of our communities and the fabric of our nation.»

Attendees were treated to a culinary experience courtesy of chefs Ange Branca of Kampar and Muhibbah Dinners. The afternoon was enlivened by Selina Carrera, whose stage name is Cvgebird, who performed «Dreamer,» a song composed for the event. The lyrics were written by her and the music was composed by Al Zamora, who accompanied her.

For more information about EILS’ services, please call (347) 719-1402 or email


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