One of the things I find so empowering about our work at MAF is seeing young leaders follow their passion and give back to the community. Jesus Castro is one of those leaders who joined Lending Circle for Dreamers and has gone on to advocate for immigrant youth. I interviewed him about an exciting public service announcement he has developed with the SF Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs to raise awareness about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
How did you get involved with the SF Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs?
The first time I came in contact with the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA), or more specifically OCEIA’s director, Adrienne Pon, was at the Coro Annual Luncheon. After giving a speech on how Coro’s Exploring Leadership Program changed my life, several people came up to me to congratulate me, and discuss my career path, I was really honored. A couple minutes after Director Pon approached me and I think she stood out to me the most because of her offices name. I am very passionate about the fight for immigrants and, their name being The Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant affairs just caught my eye right away that’s when I knew that I wanted to get that internship more than anything.
What was the purpose of the PSA video?
The PSA’s purpose was to create a useful outreach tool to educate people about DACA and encourage them to come forward and apply. We were also hoping to incorporate it in our one year of DACA event this in celebration of DACA’s one year anniversary, so in response this PSA video came into play. During the process there were some hiccups and the video was delayed but with help from an awesome friend, and my own little grain of sand the video was finally completed and it’s now on YouTube. The video is also posted on our dreamSF website.
How did you feel sharing your personal story in the video?
Sharing my story is something that I really enjoy doing not only because it empowers others to share their stories, but also because it also gives me the strength and courage to keep sharing my story. It’s a domino effect they need a little courage from others to share their stories, and these people’s positive feedback gives the person telling their story the courage to keep doing sharing.
What are some reasons DACA eligible youth have not applied yet?
I can’t know for sure and I can’t speak on behalf of those who haven’t yet applied for DACA, but if I were to guess why they haven’t applied I would say it’s because of the fact that they don’t have the money to do so. The cost to apply for DACA is $465 which is a huge investment and many people are also unfamiliar with the application process and what it takes to renew, so we need to provide the right educational and financial resources.
How did you find out about MAF?
Mission Asset Fund (MAF) has definitely played a huge role in my life. The first time I heard about them was through Legal Services for Children, the organization that helped me with my DACA application process. They suggested that I go to MAF for financial assistance because at the time they were offering a $155 scholarship for DACA applicants on top of their lending services to pay for the DACA application. I joined what they call Lending Circles for Dreamers were I got a step by step on filling in the application in order to receive the check that would pay for my application. Now, the program offers participants an opportunity to get a group loan and save so you can pay for your application.
What are some other ways the city is trying to assist immigrants?
Specifically, our office is assisting immigrants with language access, naturalization services and in terms of DACA youth/adult immigrants, we are launching a dreamsf fellows program that is specifically for DACA approved people and we have a Pathways to Citizenship initiative.
What are your hopes for comprehensive immigration reform?
A comprehensive immigration reform would be exceptional for all immigrants that currently reside in the U.S. I’m sure this comprehensive reform is around the corner but we just all have to make an effort in the process and show an interest in it. We currently have DACA but what about our parents and those who don’t meet the requirements for DACA? Not every undocumented person qualifies for DACA so many families are being broken up while immigration reforms is at a standstill. We need to move forward or our communities suffer.
What does civic engagement mean to you and how it is important in your life?
To me, it’s the 2nd chapter to my story. I have been with OCEIA for 2 years now and it’s really a home away from home. I can’t thank Director Pon enough for giving me the opportunity to be part of her team. Since the beginning of my internship the work has been tough, and I mean that in the most thankful way. Thankful because from all the work that I have done I know feel better prepared me for whatever other job comes my way. I also want to thank Richard Whipple he has been there every step of the way. He not only guides me through work challenges but also through life’s challenges. Although I have done a lot with OCEIA, this is only the beginning. I am still looking forward to many years with them, and as OCEIA grows, I will as well.
Nesima Aberra is the Marketing Associate and New Sector Fellow at Mission Asset Fund. She loves storytelling, social good and a good cup of tea. You can reach her at [email protected].