Cristina Jiménez, a United We Dream co-founder, immigrant rights advocate, and a pivotal figure in the people power push to enact the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, has been announced as one of 2017’s MacArthur Genius Fellows, a prestigious “distinction that comes with a $625,000 grant … annually bequeathed to exceptional and inspirational Americans,” like previous recipient Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Jimenez came to the U.S. when she was just 13, and along with the relentless youth and activists from United We Dream, transformed the narrative around undocumented immigrants in the United States with their personal stories and activism. For Jimenez and undocumented immigrant youth, it’s never been about politics. It’s been about fighting for justice for families.
“Regardless of what Trump or anyone has to say, this award recognizes our courage, our sacrifices of the community, our humanity, and that this is our home,” Jiménez said. “This award and this journey really reflects that community [of undocumented immigrants] and the power and courage that comes with it when you’re dreaming together of what you want to achieve”:
Given Jiménez Moreta’s involvement in the DACA efforts, the path she took to become a MacArthur “genius” makes a strong case against Trump’s treatment of undocumented immigrants. Last month, DACA recipients were heartbroken when the White House announced it would gradually phase out the program to wait on congressional action. At the time, the White House allowed recipients whose work authorization cards expire before March 5, 2018 one last chance to renew their lawful presence status before last week. The first set of DACA recipients are expected to see their DACA status permanently expire starting around March 5, 2018.
“We are still here, despite the odds and despite the attacks,” Jiménez continued. “We are not going to go back into the shadows and that’s the inspiration I want to share with undocumented youths and families out there.”
There are no strings attached to the MacArthur Fellowship grant—which is awarded annually to a select group by an anonymous committee—but Jiménez is planning to use “part of the grant to support United We Dream’s mission of building a generation of community organizers and social justice leaders.”