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Latino Daily News

Friday October 5, 2012

Texas Judge Named “Border Hero” by Advocacy Center

Texas Judge Named “Border Hero” by Advocacy Center

Photo: Texas Judge Named "Border Hero" by Advocacy Center

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Texas jurist Maria Salas-Mendoza’s efforts on behalf of women and children in the El Paso area has earned her a place among the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center’s “Border Heroes.”

Salas-Mendoza, a district court judge and president of the El Paso Bar Association, has created programs to help kids placed in foster homes to excel academically and professionally.

“These children should know that the disadvantage which life has placed them at is not a reason to give up their dreams, but the opposite: it should drive them to demonstrate they are capable of achieving their goals,” she tells Efe.

The judge, an alumna of Radcliffe College and UCLA law school, says she identifies with the Latino children and teens she encounters in the course of her work.

One of Salas-Mendoza’s initiatives is an El Paso County program that provides employment for foster kids who lack role models or a support system.

Participating youngsters work in county administrative offices and are assigned attorneys to act as mentors.

The support and advice extends beyond the duration of the job, Salas-Mendoza said, and the participants can rely on it “whenever they need it in the future.”

The judge, who often speaks at El Paso schools, said she never misses an opportunity to talk to young people about their futures, “because it’s important to push them to be good people, to be successful professionals.”

Salas-Mendoza and the other 2012 “Border Hero,” activist West Paul Cosgrove, were selected by a consensus of representatives of community organizations, Los Americas executive director Katie Hudak said.

Both honorees, Hudak said, “have dedicated their lives to making our border a more just and humane place.”

The Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center 2012 Border Heroes Awards Dinner is set for Oct. 20 at Temple Mt. Sinai in El Paso.

The event will also raise funds to support the center’s work of providing low-cost legal service to immigrants seeking political asylum or U visas, which are granted to crime victims.

In an average year, the Las Americas Center helps around 300 immigrants obtain legal permanent residence in the United States.