Sister Maureen Kelleher

Sister Maureen Kelleher, a Roman Catholic nun and immigration attorney, lobbied in Washington, D.C., before coming to Immokalee to assist working but poor undocumented immigrants gain amnesty through immigration laws.

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Sister Maureen Kelleher
Lawyer, teacher, friend

On a gloomy, rainy afternoon in the Spartan offices of Collier County Legal Aid, Sister Maureen Kelleher of the order of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Immokalee, is a lawyer who has been seeing clients with immigration issues all morning and most of the afternoon.

Kelleher worked as a teacher and then a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., before coming to Immokalee. When she tells people what she does for a living, she hears a variety of responses, not all pleasant. She smiles, remembering speaking to a group in Naples not long ago. “They all clapped at the end,” Kelleher said, “and the woman who introduced me got up and said, ‘Now let me tell you I don’t agree with a thing she said, but she did say it well.’”

The majority of those she helps are survivors of abuse or the victims of crime. The ability to stay in this country and work could literally save their lives.

But even for immigrants without hardship issues, Kelleher said, “we have so much complicity for what goes on south of the border … and if many people are honest with themselves, they’re not going to cut their own grass, clip hedges, pick tomatoes.”