Originally from Argentina, Emiliano Lerda was drawn to America’s Midwest because its agricultural environment reminded him of his native Cordoba province. He joined the Immigrant Legal Center (ILC), formerly known as Justice for Our Neighbors of Nebraska, as executive director in 2011. ILC is a nonprofit law firm that provides free immigration legal services, education, and advocacy for low-income immigrants. When Lerda joined ILC, the organization had a single office, with three full-time employees managing a 500-case load, and an annual operating budget of approximately $250,000. As of 2019, the organization has expanded to nine offices across the state of Nebraska and southwest Iowa. They have 46 full-time employees, 20 of whom are attorneys, managing over 3,800 cases per year with an annual operating budget in excess of $3.6 million. In 2018, ILC successfully completed a $3.3 million capital campaign to acquire a 23,000 square foot office building in Omaha, providing a permanent headquarters for ILC. Lerda left ILC in the late fall of 2019 to become Vice President of Paul G Smith Associates, which focuses on business development and real estate.
Lerda graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies at the University of Northern Iowa, becoming the first international student elected student body president. He holds a Juris Doctor from Drake University Law School with certificates in Public Service Law, Food and Agriculture Law, and International Comparative and Human Rights Law. He has a Master of Law from the University of Arkansas School of Law. He also completed the Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program in Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management. Lerda is licensed to practice law in the state of Iowa.