Meet Cristina Jiménez: Co-founder of United We Dream & MacArthur Genius Fellow

Cristina Jiménez transformed her pain into power when she founded United We Dream, a nationwide movement that unites young undocumented immigrants in a quest to impact national and local policy. United We Dream was born out of Cristina’s own story as an undocumented immigrant. It was as an answer to the pain she experienced growing up living in fear of separation from her parents and in constant worry that her family’s dreams for better opportunities would be lost.

This pain fueled her passion for being part of a solution, a solution that would not only mean survival for Cristina, but transform the lives of her family, her brother, her friends and thousands of other young people who had experienced the same pain. She and other young Dreamers designed United we Dream as a magical space where people could shift from a place of shame and fear to a place of empowerment, visibility and action.

As the leader of United We Dream, Cristina has been advocating for life-changing legislation such as the Dream Act and DACA for over a decade alongside a network of young advocates and supporters. They have celebrated victories small and large, including the enactment of DACA during President Obama’s administration. In recognition of her groundbreaking work, Cristina was awarded the MacArthur Genius grant which she sees as recognition that the lives, dreams and efforts of young undocumented immigrants matter, and that their efforts are changing the county for the better.

4 Lessons to Take from Cristina Right Now

You are Powerful Beyond Measure, And You Are Needed

You have the power in you to transform organizations and communities. You have the experience, the journey and wisdom of your ancestors, and you are needed. Cristina invites you to share your stories, speak up together, and be part of the leadership that is transforming communities across the country. If we unleash our Latina magic, she says, we can transform this country.

You Can Make the Impossible, Possible

When Cristina and team developed a strategy to advocate for President Obama to enact DACA, many people disagreed with their approach, saying that it would never be possible and that they were even out of their minds. In spite of this, Cristina’s group saw a unique opportunity to make a change and continued to push forward. Their efforts paid off, and they won, making the impossible, possible.

Your Voice is Cultivated

Cristina’s journey to finding her voice started when she met Josh Bernstein, an immigration lawyer who led immigrant advocacy efforts. Josh helped Cristina cultivate her voice and played a pivotal role in helping her find comfort in her story and the courage to share it. He invited her along with many other Dreamers to Washington D.C. to participate in advocacy training programs, teaching Cristina how to organize, how to lead advocacy and how to take ownership in the democratic process.

Do Something Greater Than Yourself

When Cristina recognized she was doing something greater than herself, she was able to bridge the gap between fear and the courage to share her story and take action. Whether it’s through civic efforts or entrepreneurship, if you shift your life ever so slightly, and start thinking about something greater than yourself – whether it’s your children or marriage of family – it could lead to transcendent work.