Podcast Episode 2: United We Dream and the Fight for Immigration Justice

Content warning: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), family separation, police brutality

In this second episode of our podcast, Host Dey Hernández and Greg Jobin-Leeds interview Cristina Jiménez. Cristina is an Ecuadoran immigration activist who co-founded United We Dream in 2008. 

Cristina talks about the conditions that lead immigrants to leave their countries to seek a better future while delving into the deep-rooted issues and adversity that immigrants face in the USA. Cristina shares how United We Dream was born from the need for an organization to stand up and fight for the rights of immigrants. Jorge Díaz explores the word ‘Undocumented’ in the segment ‘The Word of the Day’.

Music: “Ultima-Thule” and “Slate-Tracker” By Blue Dot Sessions and “Resist” generously shared by Rev. Sekou.

TRANSCRIPT

Cristina Jiménez

My name is Cristina Jimenez and I, lead United We Dream, we are the largest immigrant youth led organization in the country and I came to be part of a group of young people in the early 2000s that dreamed about creating an organization like United We Dream, out of my own personal experience and many of us as immigrants.

Greg Jobin-Leeds

Hello and welcome to When We Fight, We Win!.

Dey Hernández

My name is Dey Hernández.

Greg Jobin-Leeds

And I’m Greg Jobin-Leeds. We are the authors of the book, When We Fight, We Win. In the book we capture some of the stories, philosophy, tactics, and art of the leading social change movements in the United States. Now through this podcast, we want to share some new stories and lessons of the present day and past movements. We want to learn from the folks who are out there on the front-lines fighting and through their stories understand the root causes of today’s growing troubles. We hope these stories may flip a switch inside you, our listeners, minds and heart and inspire you as it inspires us here at When We Fight, We Win!

Dey Hernández

Today we interview Cristina Jimenez from the organization, United We Dream. We will hear her story, a transformational journey of an undocumented girl from Queens who in the space of just over a decade became one of the most fierce activists and organizers in the fight for justice for undocumented people in the US. United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth led community in the country, creating welcoming spaces for young people regardless of immigration status to support, engage and empower them, to make their voice heard and win. United We Dream has an online reach of over four million and it’s made up of over 400,000 members as well as five statewide branches and over 100 local groups across 28 States. Over 60% of their members are women and 20% identify as LGBTQ.

Chapter one, The Pain.

Greg Jobin-Leeds

Asking a person where you are from can be a complicated and loaded question. For some it’s like a snapshot that captures one moment of a life. For millions of immigrants though, this can be a charged and layer question of a story woven together with complexities of the material conditions that forces one to leave their original home and their country.

Dey Hernández

We asked Cristina this very question, where are you from?

Cristina Jiménez

I was originally born in Ecuador and my parents had big aspirations and a commitment to ensuring that their kids will have a better life. My mother grew up in a, in a home where they didn’t believe in women going to school. So she always had a dream of her daughter being the first one to get an education, go to college. And my dad grew up homeless in Ecuador as a child and a teenager. So for him, the dream of ensuring that there was always food on the table for his family and a roof, you know, wa- was really precious to him. And in the 1990s, my parents were impacted by political and economic factors in the country that led to various things happening. And, you know, I remember my parents looking for jobs constantly, but there will just be no opportunities and no jobs.

And we started to experience moments in our family where sometimes we wouldn’t have money for food and we couldn’t pay for school anymore. When we left in 1998 my parents made the very courageous decision to leave everything behind and leave their families and what they knew and, you know, their culture and their language behind to seek a better life here in the US and, you know, certainly as I look at, uh, and reflect on my family’s experience, when we are on the brink of not having food to eat and as a parent you don’t have anything to fit your children, coming to the US and, you know, having a job and having food on the table, having a place to live which, which we did. All I think speak to things that we couldn’t have in Ecuador and, that I feel, you know, reflects some of the best in terms of what immigrants get to experience here in comparison to the poverty and the, and the struggles that we face in the countries where we come from.

Dey Hernández

We asked Cristina about the forces that create the conditions for families such as hers to have to leave their homes and migrate.

Cristina Jiménez

What sometimes people, you know, don’t know is how much the foreign policy of the US and US intervention shapes the economic and political conditions of many of the countries where people end up, you know, fleeing and migrating. For the case of Ecuador, I didn’t know this then as a teenager or a young person, but what I know now is that the US backed the banks in the country to have control over the economy and steal people’s money. And, you know, bank shut down from one day to another and people ended up losing lifelong savings.

And that led to millions of people in Ecuador, left unemployed. And for many of the immigrant communities that I am part of and that I work with, particularly from places like central and, central America and Mexico, there is a very clear correlation between NAFTA and the, the fair trade that was agreed with Canada and, and Mexico also around the same time that led to, um, many of the immigrants that have, uh, fled Mexico, again seeking jobs and opportunity and a better life for their families here.

Cristina recounted the daily experiences of fear and struggle which she had to face living as an undocumented immigrant. The idea of seeking a better life for Cristina and her family was overshadowed by the conditions that people of color have to face in this country that continues to be fueled by white supremacy.

And I remember realizing very quickly that not only because of, you know, being an undocumented immigrant, you have fear that people can’t find out that you can get detained, that your parents could be detained or that you could be deported or your family could experience the deportation. The history of this country so much are rooted in, you know, nativism and white supremacy and systematic oppression and racism. And a lot of what we are exposed to is often the blaming of each other, right?

So, you know, immigrants take away jobs. This is why, you know, poor whites or you know, communities of color don’t have access to jobs now or in the case of the exploitation in the workplace. Often there is the blaming of you know, the, a certain set of workers against the others. And so much of what we’re seeing is like narratives and stories and arguments that are pitting us against each other when in essence what we are seeing is a really, systems, institutions and policies have been very intentionally designed to keep people poor, to oppress, you know, poor communities of color in this country.

And when we don’t have, I think a lot of acknowledgment of understanding the roots of this country, of genocide, of native American communities and slavery and the treatment of immigrants throughout history, whether they were Mexican-American or Japanese-American or you know, or Jews or Italians and Irish. I feel that for me, the, the perspective that I have now is one really knowing the history of this country and how that has, uh, impacted so much of the systems and institutions and laws that, uh, generated so much inequity and injustice in this country including, right, the, the current targeting and escape-goating of immigrants.

Greg Jobin-Leeds

Chapter two, The Fight.

Dey Hernández

We asked Cristina if she remember a particular moment when she realized that the only way to fight for the rights of the undocumented was through organizing.

Cristina Jiménez

The way that it happened for me is that when my college advisor said to me that because of my papers or, or lack of, I couldn’t pursue college and you know, and I had done everything that I could have to create like the strong profile of a college candidate, right? Like the community surveys and the honors classes and all of that. I, I was really disappointed and frustrated and, and was very ready to give up actually. But then my mother, uh, pushed me and really encouraged me to go back to the school and to find us help and figure out how I could go to college.

So as I was working and doing research online and talking to other teachers in the school, I found out about a local organization in New York city and then eventually the statewide coalition for immigrant rights here at the New York Immigration Coalition, and ended up going to one of their meetings because of that. So that was my first, you know, entry point to, uh, organizing and to activism. And you know, the rest is history. After that first meeting when, I didn’t share that I was undocumented because I was really afraid, but you know, I said that I wanted to help the students figure out the college system and I wanted to understand what immigrant communities could do to, to reach their dreams of a college education. And that was my entry point to then becoming really committed to organize and to advocate for, for justice, for immigrant communities.

Greg Jobin-Leeds

The battle to gain access to college was moving Cristina towards activism. But it was the injustices of what happened to Walter that compelled her to stand up and start organizing. This organizing would later become United We Dream.

Cristina Jiménez

Walter didn’t have immigration status, he was undocumented. And he was immediately arrested and forced out of the train. He was put in jail in Buffalo, New York, and he was issued an order of deportation by the federal government. And I got a call at 5:00 AM from his sister who told me that Walter had been detained and was in jail and, and that he had been ordered a deportation.

And for an immigrant that is the greatest fear that you have, that a loved one, whether family or friend, will be at the risk of being deported. And so we, you know, came together. I remember convening with many other young people that were planning to go to the meeting that at that point was canceled because Walter had been detained. And so all of us jumped on different phone calls and develop a campaign to keep Walter home.

Dey Hernández

As family and friends in her community united in solidarity, Cristina was entering on chartered territory in organizing. And explain us how the campaign to free Walter unfolded.

Cristina Jiménez

It was through Walter’s campaign that I became a believer in organizing and that I saw that organizing works. So that was like my first, you know, taste of organizing power, which then really has become a journey of the last decade and more of organizing undocumented immigrants, uh, particularly young people, to bring change to their communities. We mobilized phone calls from the faith community, from educators, we engage the New York senators at the time. We, um, bombarded and flooded the phone lines of the facility where he was being held, the detention camp where he was being held. And all of our pressure and the letters that were written by his teachers and people in the community and the engagement of policymakers led to Walter being fr- freed. And for me, it was a turning point in my life because what was clear from this situation were two things. One, that organizing worked and we were able to stop Walter’s deportation.

And two that I wanted to make sure that we, in our community, didn’t have anyone that had to go through what Walter and many of us close to him had to go through for, you know, the risk of his deportation. And you know, that to me it’s the day when I made a commitment to do this work for the long term of organizing communities impacted by injustice and, and bringing change. We did all of this work with United We Dream. At the time we were not, you know, formal organization but more or less than informal coalition of young people who were undocumented in different States.

Dey Hernández

And this leads us to the segment, the word of the date with our resident wordsmith and editor of the book, Jorge Díaz. Jorge is a founding member of our AgitArte. AgitArte is an organization of working class artists and cultural organizers that I’m also part of. We create project and practices of culture, solidarity with grassroots struggles. We also lead community based educational and arts program along with projects that agitate in the struggle for liberation.

Jorge Díaz

My name is Jorge Díaz and this is the word of the day. The word of the day is undocumented. The term undocumented immigrant refers to a foreign born person reciting in a given country without the legal right to be in that country. The history of immigration in the United States is fought with racist and discriminatory practices that criminalize and marginalize those who come to this country seeking refuge and other possibilities for their lives and their families.

Undocumented immigrants often referred to by the government as illegal aliens, are subjected to racial profiling, forced separation from their families and their homes, workplace rates, being illegally and inhumanly detained, placed in detention centers, children being caged and separated from their families, police brutality, violence and sexual abuse. Words and the ideas they transmit matter. They shape our narratives and worldviews and in the discourse around immigration in the United States, there is a history of violent and dehumanizing labels. So laws and slogans thrown towards immigrants and especially towards those who are non-white and undocumented.

The president of the United States has systematically used his most hateful language, inciting racism and violence towards immigrants using such rhetoric as illegals, bad hombres and vilify Mexicans and central American immigrants as criminals and rapists. Trump’s Mexico border wall and zero tolerance campaign normalizes once again the use of the term illegals. This label is often used in mainstream discourse interchangeably with the term, undocumented immigrant.

The term illegals is employed by white nationalists to criminalize and dehumanize immigrants, especially black and Brown folks. Actions matter the most. And there is a relentless attack on immigrants, especially since the establishment of ice after 911 which has had disastrous effects on our communities and lives citing a few research center study based on the numbers from the federal government. And I quote, “The of immigrant apprehensions at the US-Mexico border rose in fiscal year 2019 to its highest annual level in 12 years. The 851,508 apprehensions recorded last fiscal year, we’re more than double the number of the year before but still well short of the levels in the early 2000s.”

The experiences of the lives of immigrants throughout the history of the United States who face exploitation, racism, deportation, and other oppressive conditions are emblematic of the struggles of millions of undocumented people who deal daily with isolation from peers. The struggle to pursue an education, fears of detention and deportation and the trauma of separation from family and loved ones. The immigration movement has fought for years to transform the reality of immigrants in this country and to call attention to the US imperialist practices all over the world and particularly in Latin America.

Conditions which make migration a necessity for millions of our people, people who struggle, people who live, who work and who know that to survive, we have to fight in solidarity for our lives and to win. This has been the word of the day.

Greg Jobin-Leeds

Cristina came to the USA when she was just 13 years old. Over the next decade, she watched families like her own suffer in pain and struggle. She came to the realization that the only way for her to see real change was to organize. In 2008, with the help of other young undocumented folks in her community, she created United We Dream. Cristina was just 23 years old. In the 12 years after, United We Dream has been transformed from a handful of people trying to free Walter in New York, into a national grassroots movement organization with over 400,000 members. We asked Cristina how this happened in such a short time.

Cristina Jiménez

Those were, those were some of the origins I will say, of our genesis story of United We Dream and, and we, many of us were working in our local States, you know, whether that was Texas or California or Massachusetts, where everyone was either leading a local campaign to get their States to allow undocumented students to go to college, or people were working on deportation campaigns just like the one, um, that I described with Walter and everyone was working together and pushing for the DREAM act at the federal level, which is a bill that was introduced in 2001 that would allow undocumented young people to apply for a pathway to citizenship.

And, so all of those things brought us together in addition to our undocumented experience. And we decided that, you know, we couldn’t fight one deportation at a time in isolation, that we couldn’t support each other unless we built a bigger community. And that to maximize our efforts, we needed to create a space where young people can come together. So in 2008, we decided to create United We Dream to be a national network led by people impacted by, uh, the injustices of, uh, uh, immigration and the immigration system. We, uh, created the organization with a very specific goal of a national campaign around the dreamer.

Barack Obama (archival)

And they need us to enact comprehensive immigration reform. We need to do it by the end of my first term as president of the United States of America.

Female Journalist (archival)

In 2008, Barack Obama promised he would reform immigration in his first four years. But it’s been two terms and a comprehensive immigration bill still hasn’t passed. Here’s what happened. Let’s start with Obama’s first term. In 2009, the country was in a recession and involved in two wars, and Obama’s proposed healthcare bill was also getting a lot of backlash. Remember this?

Barack Obama (archival)

The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

Female Journalist (archival)

Yet while dealing with all of that, Obama continued to push his immigration agenda. He met with party leaders.

Barack Obama (archival)

We have just finished what I consider to be a very productive meeting.

Female Journalist (archival)

He spoke at universities.

Barack Obama (archival)

In some, the system is broken and everybody knows it.

Female Journalist (archival)

He traveled to border States.

Barack Obama (archival)

 And now we need Congress to catch up.

Female Journalist (archival)

And he released proposals and policy campaigns. But despite his best efforts in his first term, three comprehensive immigration bills died in the House and Senate.

Man’s Voice (archival recording)

 You promised it, a promise is a promise.

Barack Obama (archival)

So I am happy to take responsibility for the fact that we didn’t get it done, but I did not make a promise that I would get everything done 100%.

Female Journalist (archival)

Nine days into Obama’s second term, it was clear comprehensive immigration reform would be more of a focus when he gave this speech in Las Vegas.

Barack Obama (archival)

Now is the time.

(crowd chanting)

Female Journalist (archival)

That momentum came from eight senators who introduced a comprehensive bill that later passed in the Senate. But that bill didn’t go any further and House Democrats introduced a similar bill with a few changes. It died, and so did many others. Pro-immigration reform advocates became impatient as Obama continued to deport millions who were undocumented.

Man’s voice (archival recording)

 You have the power to stop deportation for all.

Barack Obama (archival)

Actually I don’t.

Cristina Jiménez

And we led a campaign to pass the DREAM Act that culminate it and it passed the house and he fell short by five votes in the Senate. And this included, you know, Democrats that did not with us, but if they would have voted with us, we would have passed the DREAM act in 2010. And though that was a very difficult moment for our movement and our organization, I remember that being really a moment where as, as many of us were crying, uh, we also had a resolve and a commitment to continue to fight for, uh, our communities.

Greg Jobin-Leeds

We asked Cristina how fighting for immigrants in this era of Trump has changed their organizing and what the present situation is for immigrants in the USA today.

Cristina Jiménez

Well, Bush started in creating the department of Homeland Security and ICE and, and infusing more resources to border patrol that already existed, has led to this being the agency that has the most resources combined out of all of the agencies in our federal government. This machine of targeting immigrants under the agency with ICE and border patrol also grew a lot under the Obama administration. And what you have today, it’s an agency that was built in a bipartisan way because even when Bush was president, Democrats supported the creation of the agency that has operated with that kind of ability since day one.

Obama deported over three million people even though he run a campaign that was very pro immigrant, he committed to keeping families together, to passing the DREAM act, to passing the immigration reform. And then under his administration, what we see is that he continues the tradition of the Bush administration.

So when we get to Trump, what you actually see is a very well oiled and resource deportation machine that was built by Obama and Bush. And then now Trump has taken to the most extreme and, and radical, and really bringing a massive partition agenda to life, going after immigrants from, you know, putting kids in cages to separating them from their families at the border. Those, you know, folks that have been seeking asylum and seeking refuge from central America, Mexico and other countries. Terminating programs like DACA that you know, it’s one of our most significant victories on immigrations, and now even creating taskforce to take away people’s naturalization or citizenship.

Female Journalist (archival)

This image has become a powerful representation of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration. A two year old girl sobbing as US border patrol agents searched her mother.

Law Enforcement Officer (archival)

You crossed the border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child may be separated from you as required by law.

Female Journalist (archival)

The Trump White House’s tactic of systematically separating migrant families is a dramatic shift. There have been cases of families being separated under the previous two administrations, but it’s always been the exception, not the rule. That said, Trump’s crackdowns are happening against the backdrop of more than a decade of stepped up enforcement at the Southern border.

In 2005 President George W. Bush launched Operation Streamline along the Texas border. He was responding to a spike in apprehensions there. The program called for criminally prosecuting all migrants.

George W. Bush (archival)

We’re going to get control of our borders. We’ll make this country safer for all our citizens.

Female Journalist (archival)

The idea of zero tolerance took root under Bush and it’s what Trump has used to model his policy after. The Bush era program meant that migrants who were caught in certain border States were put through their criminal system, not civil immigration courts. It made exceptions for adults traveling with children, but others were ushered through mass trials aimed at deporting them quickly. It’s a practice that’s still around today. The Trump administration says it’s now merely enforcing the letter of the law, but images of children in detention have made it hard to sell it in political terms and humanitarian ones too.

Cristina Jiménez

Deploying many more agents and more resources for ICE to go after communities. You know, just recently they issue an order for a special unit of snipers to go into cities, also known as santuary cities. And we’ve seen them here in New York that, you know, are, they are going into buildings, into homes, into churches, into schools. They’re everywhere, is not just at the border, it’s inside our borders. And it is a very terrifying moment to be an immigrant, to be a person of color, to be undocumented because the first thing of business that this president did on his first week was to issue an executive order that States, that all immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, are a target for deportation. The Trump administration took what was built Obama and Bush and, and build in a bipartisan way, uh, to unleash a force of te- that is terrorizing immigrants.

Dey Hernández

Cristina lined for us some of the incredible work United We Dream is doing, their programs, campaigns and organizing. She explained how they’re empowering thousands up and thousands of young people to become leaders in their communities all across the country.

Cristina Jiménez

Since we started the organization in 2008 we’ve trained over 65,000 young people in organizing and campaigning. You know, many of them have gone now to work in other parts of the progressive movement, whether that is labor unions or climate change and many have gone to work for electoral campaigns including presidential campaigns. Some of them now that they’ve been able to get immigration status are also running for office. That’s been the case in places like California, uh, and Arizona. And so you know, that is much of our vision really coming, coming true that we imagine building an army of young people that will be empowered and rooted in their experience of being undocumented to fight for change for the community and who you know, I will say are not just fighting for the lives of immigrants, but are really fighting to save this democracy. Part of our strategies are also issue based campaigns.

So many young people right now are leading campaigns to change policies in their colleges and universities so that undocumented students are welcome and protected in those spaces. Many of them are leading local campaigns in their communities to get ICE out of their communities. And we have many young people right now as we speak that are working to get our communities counted in the census. And you know, I was just in a training, uh, that we hosted for 100 of our key leaders in Houston, Texas two weeks ago where we started our training to make sure that we are ready for voter outreach and canvassing for these year’s election.

Dey Hernández

Chapter three, The Win.

Cristina Jiménez

You know, Greg, this is the part that for me brings me the most hope these days. It’s that I’ve never seen the level of participation, activism and solidarity that I’ve seen. But I think that we are going through a very unprecedented moment of awakening in, in the country and in our communities.

Greg Jobin-Leeds

Cristina recalled the inspiring story of an event that happened at LaGuardia Airport in New York. She shared this story with us. It’s about solidarity between our communities.

Male Journalist (archival)

Overnight, dozens of protesters organized at LaGuardia airport rallying for the rights of children separated from their families under the Trump administration zero tolerance policy at the border.

Male Protester (archival)

 The wages are here to support and show them love, cause no one should be separated from their mothers and their…

Cristina Jiménez

This was at the peak of the impact that the zero tolerance policy was having in communities that were seeking a refuge in the country at the border. And you know, thousands of children were being separated intentionally by the administration. And as all of this was happening, many of us in the community were raffling with the need to support the family, the parents that, that we knew had been separated from their kids, you know. So as we were doing all of this, we were also demanding that airlines did not cooperate with, uh, the administration to fly these children to different detention camps across the country.

And United We Dream has been playing a leadership role in bringing together progressive organizations who support our cause and you know, who may not work with immigrant communities directly. So groups like Indivisible and Move On and, uh, Stosh, who’s the director of Bend the Arc and I have been working on all of these multiple fronts together.

And then one night she communicated with me that she got noticed that American airlines was still flying children to detention camps across the country, that some of them were being sent to New York and that they were landing. Her and I said, “What don’t we do?” And I said, “Well, I think that we need to show up. We need to hold the airlines accountable, but we also, we should also try to be in touch with these kids and see what we can do and when need to call attention to what’s happening.” Because this was also in the midst of us putting public pressure on the administration to stop the zero tolerance policy.

So Stosh and I met a LaGuardia airport on a flight that was coming from Texas, American airlines landing in LaGuardia. Her and I sent text messages to many of our other organizer friends, you know, Linda Sarsour. I reached out to friends, I’d make there on New York and there’s staff there and S- and Stosh, you know, reached out to many of the members and leaders from Bend the Arc and we reached out to all of our networks. And then we started tweeting, you know, we’re here, we are demanding that American airlines keeps their word of not cooperating with the government. And, and also, you know the government was saying that they had stopped separating children, but we were saying no, here they are. Like they are sending these kids all across the country and they’re landing here in New York.

And in a matter of 30 minutes we had hundreds of people that showed up to LaGuardia Airport with signs that said, we love you, we’re fighting for you.

Cristina (archival)

We are here to say…

Crowd (archival)

We are here to say…

Cristina (archival)

…that we’re not going to stand for the criminalization of immigrants in this country.

Crowd (archival)

…that we’re not going to stand for the criminalization of immigrants in this country.

Cristina (archival)

That the act of coming to this country to seek refuge is not a crime.

Crowd (archival)

That the act of coming to this country to seek refuge is not a crime.

Cristina (archival)

That we are with our immigrants brothers and sisters…

Crowd (archival)

That we are with our immigrants brothers and sisters…

Cristina (archival)

…who are in detention camps right now…

Crowd (archival)

…who are in detention camps right now…

Cristina (archival)

…at the border…

Crowd (archival)

…at the border…

Cristina (archival)

…and across the country.

Crowd (archival)

…and across the country.

Cristina Jiménez

(crowd singing in background)

And this was all the message to the children. And you know, I remember being able to clearly see three children that were holding plastic bags with their papers. They must’ve been, I don’t know, 10 and six and seven. And they were being handled by someone who claimed to be working for a shelter in New York. But we were able to tell them, uh, and I remember this, like I remember telling them, uh, we’re fighting for you and we’re going to keep fighting to reunite you with your family and they just cry.

And you know, all of this work not… You know, that was one particular action that we took together, but all of the collective work that we did and many allies in solidarity, uh, really led to the administration ending, um, the zero tolerance policy and the courts intervening, which was a huge victory. Uh, so they reverse their policy. But I think, you know, the impact and the damage ha- has already been done. And there is, there’s still thousands, about a 5,000 children that are still separated from their families.

Dey Hernández

In our conversations with Cristina, we talked about common mistakes people in solidarity often make, here’s what she had to say.

Cristina Jiménez

At United We Dream, you know, we have been successful in building the movement that we have and we’ve won campaigns because one of our central values is that people closest to the pain are closest to the solutions. And you know, it’s a basic organizing principle as well when you think about it. And so, you know, one, one thing to consider as an ally is that, is to know that people directly impacted should have the space and be empowered to, to come up with the solutions. And as an ally you should support those solutions and work together to advance those strategies rooted and what people directly impacted need and have laid out. I think that that, you know, it’s, it’s something to be aware of.

Greg Jobin-Leeds

As a founding director of United We Dream, Cristina grew her organization from a handful of friends and family in solidarity to the biggest immigrant youth movement in the United States. Reflecting on how far she has come, we asked her what’s next.

Cristina Jiménez

I’m very clear that organizing, it’s a life commitment that I have and organizing can look differently in different ways. And even though right now, you know, I cannot say I will be doing X, Y, and Z because I’m still, you know, running [laughs] our team in, in the organization. I know that I, uh, organizing, it’s, uh, my life purpose and so I will continue to organize in a different way and in a different role. I’m very committed to communities of color and to young people. So I know that I will play a role in building and the supporting of, of that movement.

There are a few projects in the media that I’m working on where I’m working on a book to tell the story of our movement and, and my own story as well as continuing to think about how to build independent political power in immigrant communities and among young people in particular. So lots of exciting opportunities ahead but the biggest, uh, for me, the biggest thing is all that I’ve learned in United We Dream and that it is thanks to the movement that we’ve built in United We Dream and the people of United We Dream over the years, many of them who are not, you know, in an official role per se now, but they have been part of our network is that I, I discover my purpose in life through this journey and I’m very grateful for that.

Dey Hernández

In wrapping up, we ask all of our guests to leave us with a postcard, an image if you will, of a vision for a radical imaginary future. Cristina left us with this beautiful picture.

Cristina Jiménez

You know, I envision a way of life where young people of color and communities of color can walk in the street safely and not feel fear, could be thriving and living their best lives on whatever that would be. You know, that’s just a saying at United We Dream even in the midst of the attacks, we’re aiming and trying to live our best lives and be joyful. I envision a community of joy, a community of belonging where people are welcome regardless of how they look, where they are, their accent, regardless of their immigration status and where people can accomplish their dreams, whatever those dreams are.

And you know, that’s my hope for my family, my friends, the people in United We Dream and for all people. And that’s what, you know, drives my, that’s what drives me and gives me the fuel of, for the work that I will continue to do and that I’ve been doing for the last years.

Greg Jobin-Leeds

Thanks for listening to When We Fight, We Win the podcast. Wondering how to get involved, here’s what Cristina hopes you, our audience will do together with us after listening to this podcast.

Cristina Jiménez

You can, check out United We Dream by going to, online, all of our social media, Facebook, Twitter, @UnitedWeDream. Also our website, unitedwedream.org. And you can also find ways to, uh, engage by signing up to becoming a member of United We Dream or an ally supporter of United We Dream. And also by making a donation when you go to our website, unitedwedream.org.

If you want to join us in stopping deportations and protecting our communities from deportation, you can join us by texting heretostay, one word, heretostay to 877-877. So you just put in your phone 877-877 and text the word heretostay and you will be part of our network.

Dey Hernández

You can also find these links and other ways to get involved at our website, whenwefightwewin.com. This episode was produced by Osvaldo Budet. Juan Carlos Dávila was our assistant producer. Yooree Losordo is our managing producer. The word of the day was hosted by our editor Jorge Díaz. Part of this interview was recorded in Multitude, New York City by Amanda MacLaughlin, Brandon Gurgle and Eric Silver. Albino Mbie is our audio engineer. Our artwork was created by Jose Hernandez Díaz and the music was generously shared by Reverend Sekou.

Thanks to Thalia Carroll-Cachimuel for the amazing social media help. Would like to, thanks to our friends at the New Press for letting us record part of this interview in their office. New Press is the publisher for When We Fight, We Win!. It’s available at our website, whenwefightwewin.com and wherever books are sold.

Greg Jobin-Leeds

Like what you heard? We invite you to share, subscribe, and rate us and follow us on social media. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram @whenwefightwewin, and on Twitter @wefightandwin. Have something on your mind? Please email us at podcast@whenwefightwewin.com.