Dreamer Who Fought for the Creation of DACA Wins ‘Genius’ Grant

Activist Cristina Jiménez, with her brother and parents. (Photo via El Diario)

Adversity only strengthened her spirit. Today, Cristina Jiménez Moreta will be able to inspire many undocumented youths who, like her, experienced poverty, police abuse, wage theft and fear of deportation.

On Wednesday, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced that it conferred its “genius” grant on Jiménez in recognition of her personal perseverance and leadership in helping the undocumented immigrant community.

The foundation – whose fellowship program was designed to “encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations […] for the benefit of human society” – made known its decision to grant its prize to the Ecuadorean immigrant, who came to the U.S. escaping poverty with her parents when she was 13 years old.

“When I received the news about this grant, all I could think of was my parents. They were the ones who heroically risked it all to come to the United States from Ecuador seeking a better life for my family. This award celebrates the endurance and fortitude of my parents and of all immigrants who have overcome so many obstacles, until they made this country their home,” said Jiménez, who studied in New York City’s public school system.

Jiménez is the co-founder and executive director of United We Dream, the organization that successfully pushed for the creation and implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during the Obama administration.

“Some people who are in power want to deport my family. As a proud immigrant, I ask the country to see me, to see my brother, my parents and the generations of immigrants who have come before. This acknowledgement symbolizes the road we take to survive and prosper. I hope that it will inspire people from every origin in the United States to stand up against racism and to demand that our legislators push for an immediate, unconditional Dream Act,” said Jiménez, who is also an activist with Make the Road New York.

DACA is the most significant and far-reaching victory achieved by immigrant communities in more than 30 years. It has helped almost 1 million immigrants to live free of the constant fear of deportation, go to school, have careers and lead a stable life in the U.S.

Jiménez added that the MacArthur grant will allow her to build upon United We Dream’s collective vision to ensure that the next generation of leaders and community organizers will be able to continue promoting social justice.

Under Jiménez’s leadership, United We Dream has supported and trained tens of thousands of immigrant youths as leaders to find their voice and to learn how to express it, and it has inspired millions to prosper here and live without fear.

Javier H. Valdés, executive director of Make the Road New York, said that he is happy about the recognition bestowed on Jiménez, adding that it comes “at a moment when Washington is carrying out unprecedented attacks against immigrant communities.”

“Jiménez is helping open the road for justice for our communities. We are proud beyond words that this prestigious, well-deserved acknowledgement has been awarded to a member of the Make the Road New York family,” said Valdés.

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