Meet Carmen for our first Family Fridays!

Today we’re launching Family Fridays, a new digital campaign that will feature a new story from our community who would be directly affected by the proposed massive cuts to vital safety net programs – programs like child care subsidies, nutrition supports, housing assistance and more.

For our first story, we meet Carmen Gonzalez de Jesus, an immigrant from Oaxaca, Mexico, survivor of domestic violence, and recent U.S. citizen who now resides in Wilsonville, OR.

As a former undocumented farmworker, I used to work long hours. Without access to affordable childcare, I would take my children to work with me. I’d often work in the strawberry fields with my infant on my back and other children in the field next to me. Because of the arranged marriage I was forced into, I was brought to the U.S. against my will. I had no control over how many children I would bare as my abuser would beat me if I tried to use any form of birth control.  My children have also suffered the consequences of the domestic violence in our family. One day when my life and that of my children were threatened, I was able to break away from my abuser. It took an extreme situation to break the chains of violence and oppression that I had lived with for many years. 

After leaving, I was not prepared to navigate the system as I didn’t know these systems were in place. Once I learned, I was able to use support services to gather myself and use it to help me come out of a horrible life I was living. I have used SNAP, WIC, OHP as a safety net until I was emotionally and economically stable to move forward.

I want others to know that I am thankful for those who put in place these systems because without them my children and I might not be where we are now. I want people to know that even though I was brought to this country illegally I have contributed to society working as a farmworker in the fields, at times working for less than minimum wage. Today, I stand proud to be a leader and community organizer, supporting my community with similar stories like mine. I’m working hard to ensure that these systems remain in place and that we expand these services for other families who may one day need a crutch to lean on until they are in a better place.

Have you ever used a social safety net program? Family Forward is working with affected families, social service providers, advocates, and community members to fight against the health care repeal effort and cuts to other safety net programs.  These programs are an essential part of how our community takes care of each other. We are entitled to our entitlement programs – after all, we helped to fund them. If you believe that these programs must be protected or have a story of your own to share, take action today by signing our pledge to defend these vital safety net programs.

If you’re interested in learning more and getting involved with our efforts to protect safety net programs, please contact our Federal Campaigns Director, Reyna Lopez at reyna@familyforward.org.