Barbara Weissberger, Professor Emeritus, was honored with The Advocates for Human Rights’ Volunteer Award for her work as a Spanish interpreter in immigration court for unaccompanied minors from Central America. The award was presented to Weissberger at a June 16 event, attended by 800 people and held at the Minneapolis Depot.
“Professor Weissberger has been an integral part of The Advocates’ response to help refugees from Central America who fled their homelands for safety and protection,” said Deepinder Mayell, director of The Advocates’ Refugee & Immigrant Program. “She has been there when vulnerable children and families needed her the most. She gave voice to people who otherwise would have had to remain silent. She was a voice for those who left their homes, sometimes in the middle of the night, which nothing but a shred of hope. She helped save lives.”
The Advocates is the largest provider of free legal services in the Upper Midwest to people seeking asylum and to immigrants. In addition to Weissberger, translators Eleni Beyene, Mary Diaz, Sophia Leenay, Teresa Mesa, and Ali Tews were recognized.
Other volunteers honored at the dinner included Elizabeth Cutter, a Minnesota district court judge, for her work to protect women from domestic violence; Minneapolis Institute of Arts docent Carreen Heegaard, for conducting human rights tours at the Institute; and marketing executive Jörg Pierach, on behalf of the Minneapolis-based Fast Horse, for designing a new website for the organization.
VocalPoint Chorus and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) each received The Advocates’ Special Recognition Award. VocalPoint was honored for staging two concerts to benefit The Advocates’ work to make a better, safer world for women. CTUL was honored for combining extraordinary organizing with an everyday use of a human rights advocacy approach to empower workers who are far too often invisible.
The event’s keynote speaker was Sonia Nazario, the Pulitzer Prize Award-winning journalist and author of the book, Enrique’s Journey, also a newspaper series which describes a Honduran boy’s struggle to flee violence in his home country. Nazario spoke about the determination and plight of Central American refugees based, in part, on her journey with migrants from Honduras through Mexico to the United States on top of the “Train of Death.” At the event, Nazario was presented with The Advocates’ Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award.