As a young child Cristina Jiménez Moreta dreamed of being a dancer, instead she became an advocate and a fighter for the legal status for immigrants.
Jiménez, 33, is the executive director and co-founder of United We Dream, the country’s largest immigrant youth-led organization, she is one of the 2017 John T. and Catherine Foundation Genius grant award winners.
The award recognizes how Jiménez took the status of her and her family when they arrived 20 years ago without legal permission from Ecuador – undocumented – and turned it into a movement.
“when I was growing up undocumented, I lived with the fear of being deported. My hope is that this award inspires people to take a stand,” -Jiménez said
United We Dream has been at the forefront of the fight for legal status in the U.S. for a generation of young people who have grown up in this country, many brought by parents who arrived illegally or overstayed visas.
The group was instrumental in pressuring the Obama administration in 2012 to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, program that now is scheduled to come to an end in March under order from President Donald Trump. He organization is led, primarily by young Latinos, and its activism also have served to rally Latinos in the country and increase their political engagement.
“To me, this award recognizes my parents strength, their resilience and makes me completely thankful to them”
Before co-founding United We Dream, Jiménez co-founded the New York State Youth Leadership Council, the Dream Mentorship Program at Queens College in New York, and was an organizer with Make the Road New York, a community activist group. She is a graduate of Queens College at the City University of New York and has a master’s degree from CUNY’s Baruch College.
In less than 10 years since United We Dream was founded in 2008, it has grown to 57 affiliates in 25 states and boasts more than 300,000 members.
The MacArthur “Genius” award also recognizes immigrant activists ongoing battle to halt the Trump administration’s hardline policies on immigration, Jiménez said.
Jiménez said her plans for the award money – $625,000 paid in installments over five years – is to continue to her activism, including lobbying for legislation to protect the more than
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