When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.
Alexander Graham Bell, inventor credited with patenting the first practical telephone
My fellowship with the Voqal Foundation in which I founded the DACA Network was a lesson in adapting to a rapidly changing environment while not losing focus.
I originally had the idea back in 2012 as a hub for immigrant entrepreneurs, which was suddenly put on hold by the Executive Action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by then-president Barack Obama. Since then, DACA has given over 790,000 undocumented immigrants a better chance to pursue their dreams by giving them a legal protection from deportation and a work permit.
Early 2017, I was awarded a fellowship through the Voqal Foundation, in which I was given mentorship and seed money to start my project. It was an uphill battle convincing business and organizations to support something which was deemed very politically charged, but I did my best.
Early this September, the current Presidential administration has called for the end of the program, with a six-month window for Congress to find a legislative solution for the fate of this population. Just like that, the name and purpose of the organization was made obsolete.
Once the shock was done setting in, I realized I can take this as an opportunity to expand upon my goal of helping immigrants pursue their career goals in a packaging, if you will, which was not seen anywhere near as divisive. I did this by drafting a new program which currently bears the tentative name of the “Immigrant Entrepreneurship Initiative.”
Going beyond only helping the recently affected DACA population, the Immigrant Entrepreneur Initiative guides immigrants of all statuses through the process of starting a business. The program is structured as an incubator based on classes I have taught, coupled with guest lectures from experienced entrepreneurs who will help guide students from business idea generation to the logistics involved in shipping products/delivering services.
I am currently pitching this project to a few organizations, and it has so far been met with much enthusiasm.