In this season of gratitude, we at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC) are reflecting on the courage and resilience of the immigrant clients we serve as they pursue their dreams of integration.
We lift up the story of Lilibeth, a DREAMer attending university at UC Merced.
“It is important for me to attend university so I can build a better future for my family.” – Lilibeth
"My name is Lilibeth Mata Juarez. I was born in Oaxaca, Mexico. I immigrated to the US when I was four years old. My mom, sister and I came to be with my dad. Shortly after reuniting, my parents got divorced. I was raised by a single mom and my dad completely disappeared from the picture. During my senior year of high school, an unfortunate situation came to my family that left me feeling hopeless. I lost track of my college applications and decided to attend my local community college. I graduated Chabot College in Spring 2017.
I decided to apply for DACA for two main reasons. First, I had been waiting for my U-visa to be approved and was not able to work legally or help my family economically. My second reason was that I was a sophomore at community college and about to transfer to a four-year university. I had applied for some scholarships and was selected. At first, I was discouraged because I had not yet applied for DACA and thought I would lose my education.
Coming from a low-income family, I was lucky to find Sanctuary. On my first appointment, I saw how patient and dedicated the staff and volunteers are. They have toys for the children, they speak multiple languages to accommodate the diverse group of people they help, and if they cannot provide help for your specific case, they connect you to other agencies. Shiori helped me with my DACA application and continued to check up on me. I received a text from her a week before I left Oakland saying that my work permit had arrived. I immediately began smiling because I had gotten approved in less than a month!
With DACA, I was able to apply for jobs at my new school, UC Merced, and receive two scholarships – The Dream.US and The Hispanic Scholarship Fund -- that required proof of my work permit. I have been able to apply for jobs that pay better and have better working conditions.
I am currently studying Psychology with a minor in Spanish. I am also Fundraising Chair of a student organization called Students Advocating for Law and Education (S.A.L.E.), which is basically like a Dreamers Club. I organize events with local restaurants to raise funds for End-of-the-Year Scholarships for undocumented members of the club.
My personal dreams are to graduate with my B.A. and then get a Master’s in Gerontology and work with senior citizens. I hope that I can one day have a stable life financially so that I can support my family and so my mom doesn’t have to work a minimum wage job and could finally rest.
What message do you have for people who want to understand more about DREAMers?
My message for people who want to understand us would be to educate themselves. By this I mean to know the difference between the terms (AB 540, DACA, DreamAct, etc.) and to stay informed. I also think that if you want to support us, don’t assume that you know what we need and want. Familiarize yourself with Dreamers; understand individuals and their struggles. Allow us to explain what is it that would benefit us, and what we don’t want in a new reform/law.
I think this is important because many people try to help and believe they know what it is that we need but in reality, they are not really familiar with our situation. For example, in my community college, there were organizations that wanted to help the Dreamers Club raise their voice for a sanctuary campus yet they just wanted to be part of “social change” and didn’t understood what it truly meant to us. Currently in UC Merced, the Sociology professors also hosted a forum to talk about the DACA removal and all the speakers were citizens and didn’t have the voices that truly matter. This is why I strongly encourage direct contact with the community that is actually being affected by the political decisions.
I am extremely grateful to Sanctuary because they provide these services for free and continue to check up on all their clients. All of the help they provide is only possible because of grants and individual contributors. I would encourage you all to please contribute to this noble cause of Sanctuary. Thank you!”
Note: Lilibeth worked with EBSC staff, Shiori Akimoto, Coordinator for EBSC’s DACA program. Shiori also represents EBSC in the East Bay Naturalization Collaborative, which organizes free citizenship processing workshops. Shiori is a Refugee Rights Advocate Board of Immigration Appeals Accredited Representative.
A donation to EBSC sends a message that you honor Lilibeth and all DREAMers who are following their dreams, pursuing an education, and supporting their families and communities. Can we count on your support?