Undocumented student is first to research DACA’s impact on wages

Posted by on December 19, 2014

245% – that’s how much Francisco López-Flores’s wages increased after he received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). After charting the profound effect DACA had on his own life, Francisco, a UCLA student, started researching the impact DACA had on the wages of his community.

On Friday, Francisco traveled to Washington D.C. to present his findings to lawmakers. FWD.us caught up with him before his presentation to chat about his experience as an undocumented student, the fight for reform, and his investigation into the measurable impact of DACA.

FWD.us: DACA hugely impacted your life. What was your life like before receiving DACA?

López-Flores: I came to the U.S. when I was five years old with my mom and was raised in a single parent household in Riverside, CA. My family has been very much affected by immigration policy over the last twenty years. My mother was deported, but she was luckily able to return. My younger brother was also deported and decided to stay in Mexico, and my youngest brother is a U.S. citizen.

I’m very lucky to have received DACA because I saw the effects almost immediately. With respect to wages, I saw a 245% increase in my wages. Before DACA, a lot of my work was informal and below minimum wage. There’s no protection for undocumented workers. I would work unloading cargo at a warehouse from trailers that came into the ports in LA and Long Beach, I would clean houses – you name it and I’ve done it to try to get by.

FWD.us: Now that you have DACA you’re able to work full time at Santa Monica Hospital as an HR Specialist. What did it feel like to receive your work permit?

López-Flores: I’ve entered the formal labor market. My skillset can finally commensurate with my job type. I feel so lucky to be able to apply for scholarships that I didn’t have access to before without a social security number. I feel like DACA has given me a huge advantage.

FWD.us: You ended up being the first person to research the direct impact of DACA on wages. How did you make that happen?

López-Flores: I study Chicano Studies and Society and Genetics at UCLA. I approached my professor with the data I had about my own wage growth after DACA. My professor really liked the idea of doing more research with a greater sample size. So, for my class project I interviewed six subjects about their wage growth after DACA. Then, we did a survey with over 200 respondents. The data we’re presenting today shows that before DACA, the mean wage for respondents was $7.19 per hour. After DACA, these individuals have a mean wage of $15.29 per hour. That’s a 113% increase in wages!

FWD.us: The increase in wages is enormous – Can you tell us more about what you’re doing with all of this data?

López-Flores: Lawmakers have been really interested in this research because there really isn’t much data about the economic impact of DACA, specifically on wage growth. My professor at UCLA has done previous research on migration and wage growth and helped me to assemble a report that will be presented today. I traveled to D.C. with the North American Integration and Development Center and the César Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies at UCLA to present on the data we’ve compiled and also showcase data on how DACA recipients have benefitted from other kinds of financial inclusion, such as access and use of banking services, credit, loans, and tax filings.

FWD.us: What does President Obama’s executive action on immigration mean for your community and what does 2015 hold for you in the fight for immigration reform?

López-Flores: I’m really excited that these executive orders were done and that 5 million people will be able to benefit, but I think we need to address the 7 million people who were left out. So, I think 2015 is really about framing immigration reform is an economic issue of utmost importance. I want to continue to measure the impact of DACA and of the new programs from set forth by executive action.

Undocumented students really changed the discourse on immigration. We weren’t able to pass the DREAM Act, but we eventually got DACA. I think this project is reframing the issue and showing the impact on the young people who are affected by programs like DACA.

Announcing the FWD.us Advocacy Widget

Posted by on December 11, 2014

Today, FWD.us is excited to announce a new way we’ve made our work available for other pro-reform organizations to use. We’ve worked hard over the past year to build up our arsenal of tools for easily contacting members of Congress and encouraging our elected leaders to support action on immigration – and now it’s easier than ever to get your community involved.

We’ve created an easy-to-implement tool that allows any site to prompt their visitors to contact members of Congress in support of immigration reform. It’s simple – just copy a few lines of code into your site and we'll take care of the upkeep!

With this tool you can:

  • Enter your zip code and find your representative
  • See where your representative stands on key immigration issues
  • Contact your representative using our call tool, on twitter and Facebook, or by sending a letter in support of reform

Interested in adding this to your site? Here’s how!

If you want to give your visitors the ability to contact their representatives in support of immigration reform, simply copy the following code and paste it where you want it to show up on your site. We’ll take care of the rest, and you’ll always have the most up-to-date information available to your visitors. Simple. Convenient. Impactful.

<script type="text/javascript">
  document.write('<iframe src="http://app.fwd.us/widgets/push4reform" border="0" height="350" width="400" id="fwdwidget" scrolling="no" style="border:0 none; background-color:transparent;"></iframe>');
</script>

See the widget in action:

Update: A Crucial Step Forward To Fix Our Broken Immigration System

Posted by on November 21, 2014

Today, President Obama unveiled his plans for executive action on immigration reform at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas. I wanted to lay out what this means – and thank you for being the reason this happened.

We applaud the President for taking critical steps today to fix aspects of our broken immigration system that will mean millions of families can live their lives free from fear of deportation. It means families across America can come out of the shadows without fear and more fully contribute to our communities. It means we are focusing our resources on going after hardened criminals – not deporting parents just trying to make a better life for their kids. Moreover, we are encouraged by the President’s pledge to continue working to make it easier for entrepreneurs to create American jobs, and help keep the best and the brightest who come from around the world to study at our universities.

Today happened because of you.

Executive action means:

  • Nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants could be eligible for the programs announced this week that allow immigrants of any present age who were brought to this country as children to apply for three years of protection from deportation, and for work permits.
  • The GDP will increase by $90 billion to $210 billion and the federal deficit will decrease by $25 billion, by 2024. 
  • Average wages for all workers, both U.S.-born and immigrant, are projected to increase by $170 from these actions alone. 

This moment would not have been possible without the tireless work of grassroots immigration reform supporters. Countless calls, letters, town hall meetings, demonstrations, and petitions have kept immigration reform at the forefront of national discussion.

The tech community and FWD.us made today’s announcement happen because we utilized innovative advocacy tools for on- and offline organizing. We’ve been proud to help hundreds of thousands of supporters reach their elected representatives to send a clear message that the time for reform is now.

  • We’ve had over 350,000 different people make contacts to members of Congress and the President, both online and off.
  • We’ve hosted over 100 events across 15 states, and worked with partner organizations on hundreds more.
  • We’ve developed innovative advocacy tools – like Push4Reform, BuiltByImmigrants (BBI), and Selfies4Reform – to engage supporters creatively and help them interact with their elected representatives at the touch of a button.
  • We maintain chapter programs in 7 cities with tech hubs across the country; our robust chapters reach supporters across the country, actively engaging 8,000 members each month.
  • We’ve helped widely amplify the inspiring story of U.S. Air Force veteran Jesus – who was welcomed home from his military service abroad by news of his sister Alejandra’s detention – and their call for the President to act boldly on executive action.

Today’s announcement will have a monumental effect on 5 million lives, but our work here is not done. We have friends, family and allies who we fight alongside everyday for whom today will not bring relief – and that is exactly why we need to keep fighting.

These actions are no substitute for legislation, which remains the only way forward on the permanent solution to our broken immigration system our country so desperately needs. We’re thankful for the champions on both sides of the aisle who have worked in good faith with members of the tech community, DREAMers and their families, and so many other important voices on legislation. We are deeply committed to continuing our fight for the legislation our country needs.

But for today – thank you. This was big, and it's because of you.

Todd Schulte, Acting President of FWD.us, released the following statement after President Obama announced executive action on immigration reform:

"We applaud President Obama for announcing important steps that mean millions of families can live their lives free from the fear of deportation and contribute more fully to our communities. Moreover, we're encouraged by the White House's pledge to continue working to make it easier for entrepreneurs to create American jobs, and help keep the best and the brightest who come from around the world to study at our universities."

"To be clear, these actions are no substitute for legislation. FWD.us is proud to be a part of this step forward, but we have lots of work to do. We will continue every day to fight alongside our champions from across the country and on both sides of the aisle to find the permanent legislative solution that will finally fix our broken immigration system. Tonight is a critical step forward. We have lots of work to do."

Military families call for executive action

Posted by on November 13, 2014

Veterans, service members and their families, immigration advocates, and lawmakers gathered in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to push for executive action on immigration reform. Air Force Veteran Jesus Magaña led a press conference, calling on Congress to support President Obama in taking big and bold action to help as many people as possible.

Sign Jesus Magaña’s petition calling on President Obama to act now on immigration reform.

“We need everyone to stand up and show that they're with us,” said Magaña, who returned from active duty in Kuwait to find his sister had been put into deportation proceedings.

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LaLo Montoya is breaking down barriers

Posted by on October 27, 2014

FWD.us talked with LaLo Montoya of ShareLingo, a Denver-based social enterprise that connects Spanish and English speakers in an effort to break down cultural barriers.  An immigrant himself, Montoya discussed his own immigration story, what inspires him to work in his community, and his goals for ShareLingo. 

LaLo-Image.pngFWD.us: You're a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  Can you talk about your immigration story, and what DACA has meant for you?

Montoya: During my Junior year in high school it was a time when my friends at school were getting their summer jobs, driving permits and applying to college.  It was during a college fair at school that I found out I was undocumented.  One of my dreams has always been to be a broadcaster for politics and sports.  The school recruiter thought I would be perfect for their school and she asked me to fill out the application and the first line of the application asked for a social security number.  I looked at the empty space with a puzzled look and told her that I did not have one.  She said, “Sorry, but you cannot apply until you have one.” The response felt cold and I felt a shadow being cast over me paralyzing my hopes and dreams.  

From that moment on – at 16 years old – I felt like I was the only undocumented person.  Up until then I had done everything that had ever been asked of me: go to school, do my homework, show respect.  I grew up with two cultures that clashed all the time, I loved watching the Power Rangers and El Chavo del Ocho.  

FWD.us: How did growing up in a multi-cultural environment affect you?

Montoya: I spoke both Spanish and English growing up, but it was difficult to fully identify with one – I am both Mexican and American. I felt I was never Mexican enough or American enough. Being undocumented made me feel like an outcast in the only country I knew.

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I felt hopeless after I found out I was undocumented, but luckily I met two other undocumented students at my school.  They were fighting for the DREAM Act at the time, and they invited me to join their youth group called Jovenes Unidos.

That organization helped me find a voice and turn my fears into actions that would lead to positive changes in our community.  I was in high school fighting for the rights of all students to have an opportunity to achieve their dreams.  After high school graduation in 2005, I became a community organizer with high school students.  I led the campaign to end the school to prison pipeline in Denver Public Schools.  

FWD.us: You spent a lot of time advocating for DACA. What all did you do and how has it impacted your work?

Montoya: I helped organize the first hunger strike inside President Obama’s campaign office in Denver, advocating for an end to deportations and relief for undocumented families. When the president announced his executive order announcing the creation of DACA, he said something that I will never forget and drives me to be the entrepreneur I am today. He said, “If there is a young person here who has grown up here and wants to contribute to this society, wants to maybe start a business that will create jobs for other folks who are looking for work, that’s the right thing to do.”

After 25 years of living in the shadows, I was finally able to receive a work permit. Signing my social security card affirmed my commitment to being the best I could be for this country and doing my part in contributing to the United States of America. I now serve as Director of Community Outreach at The ShareLingo Project and every day I strive to create jobs that will make our country stronger.

FWD.us: ShareLingo is a very unique organization. How is it bringing communities together?

Montoya: ShareLingo’s mission is to connect people of different cultures through language exchange. It’s a simple idea, really. When two people have a language barrier, it separates them. But if they get together and teach each other, their different languages become something they have in common.  Both languages are valued in a ShareLingo class. Imagine a police officer learning Spanish from a street food vendor and the food vendor learning English from the police officer – that is happening in these classes and it's having amazing results.  We do language exchange in a face-to-face environment so participants get to know and trust each other.

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The business sector is taking advantage of training their employees through The ShareLingo Platform. We have companies from the banking, healthcare, and construction sectors coming to use ShareLingo because it improves their company culture and makes it possible for all employees to communicate with each other.

We are not trying to replace existing language education models at ShareLingo. Instead, we are trying to build something new that puts language learning into practice. Denver is a great community to begin this project in, but we see it expanding very soon – to new regions and new languages.

FWD.us: What motivates you to come to work every day? What inspires you?

Montoya: It really inspires me to think of the people who are part of The ShareLingo Project and the skills they are using in their everyday lives – at work, at school, in the grocery store.

Seeing ShareLingo participants gain the confidence to speak a new language, get promoted at work, communicate better with different communities, and strengthen their own communities and celebrate their language… that’s what motivates me to come to work every day.

Silicon Valley Launches Chapter Program

Posted by on October 17, 2014

On Wednesday, FWD.us Silicon Valley launched its new chapter program, inviting community members to get involved in project teams to hack advocacy and bring tech and politics together. An inspiring mixture of engineers, immigration advocates, startup founders, and special guests from the Mountain View City Council and Representative Mike Honda's office gathered to kick start the new chapter.Break_out_blog_photo.png

FWD.us organizers Katie Aragón and Andrew Moriarty kicked things off at Microsoft Sunnyvale, introducing the three new projects for FWD.us members: The 2.0 Project, Co-Founders Project, and Democracy Project.

Moriarty excitedly explained his goals for the chapter program: "We want this chapter to be the home for tech and politics in Silicon Valley – the place where anyone who wants to be part of the political process can come and work on big, tough problems."

Aragón added, "We want to empower our members to get their hands dirty and approach traditional advocacy with their unique skills as leaders and employees in the tech community."

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"One of the most exciting things we learned tonight is that most attendees had never been involved in a political organization before," said Aragón. "This speaks to the existing divide between Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C., and it underscores the need and interest of our community to be politically engaged."

FWD.us Ambassadors Prabhakar Goyal, Avinash Conda, Antonio Altamirano, and Rebecca Altamirano introduced themselves and empowered the crowd to share their stories, get involved, and become advocates.  

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Attendees discussed the political issues most relevant to the tech community, highlighting the urgent need for an innovative solution to our broken immigration system. Raphaël Mazet, founder of a Silicon Valley-based startup CliqStart, discussed how personal this issue is to him, saying, "I'm an immigrant and I want to live the American Dream. America needs to capitalize on immigrants who are anxious to create American jobs."

Priya Murthy, the Policy and Organizing Program Director at Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN), talked about what motivates her to work on immigration, adding "Regardless of how you got here, how much much you make and where you're from... everyone should have access to the American Dream." 

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"It's clear that bringing Silicon Valley together is really going to catalyze the possibilities for making real change happen," said Moriarty. Find your FWD.us chapter here, and start making an impact today. 

First FWDMonthly Held in San Francisco

Posted by on October 16, 2014

The San Francisco Chapter hosted their October FWDMonthly this week, an exciting meet up for individuals in the tech community aiming to have a greater impact in politics. The event brought together a diverse group of new and returning individuals ready to use their expertise to solve political problems like immigration reform.

Jay Nath, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of San Francisco, was on hand to present his perspective on tech's ability to interact with and potential to innovate government. Nath emphasized the shifting perspective on the role of data, and how innovators, civic hackers, journalists, and even artists are finding ways to innovate with data. He made clear that governments have a role to play in making their information accessible to the public, while highlighting his team’s work on behalf of the city and their commitment to open data.

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“Our citizenry is not just there for services…or working…but to be part of the solution,” said Nath. He continued, "Data can be a medium of collaboration and cooperation."

Following the discussion, project teams met for the first time to begin strategizing. Chapter Program project teams focus on actionable tasks split into three buckets: Co-Founders, 2.0, and the Democracy Project. The Co-Founders Project focuses on using social capitol to build a movement, the 2.0 Project leverages the specialized technical skills of chapter members to shape the national narrative on critical political issues, and the Democracy Project asks members to reimagine advocacy and consider how to inspire engagement in the community.

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“Chapter members stayed after the discussion and continued networking late into the night, to develop action plans designed to help pass immigration reform, in addition to brainstorming more ideas get members of the tech community involved in politics,” said FWD.us San Francisco Organizer Michael Brodsky. “Exciting conversations continued long after the panel ended, and we really champion this kind of meaningful engagement.”

The night’s conversations were vibrant, energizing, and full of interesting ideas. 

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San Francisco’s FWDMonthly meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. Help us work toward making comprehensive immigration reform, and other policy changes critical to the tech community, a reality: become a Chapter Member here.

Thank you to our event hosts for the evening, Ameredia -- a multicultural advertising agency founded by San Francisco's Co-Founder Project Lead, Pawan Mehra.

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With experience in community organizing and electoral politics, Lisa Conn joined the FWD.us family over a year ago as an energizing force driving our tech outreach efforts. She's now ushering in a new era of FWD.us organizing with the launch of a multi-faceted engagement and advocacy program.

Read on to learn more about the genesis of our new Chapter Program, and what motivates Lisa to work toward harnessing the power of tech in the national political discussion.

FWD.us: What is the philosophy behind the new FWD.us Chapter Program? What can people expect when investing their time?

Conn: We've spent the last year and a half fighting aggressively for immigration reform and engaging the tech community in the process. And we've seen great things. We passed a Senate bill. We won several congressional primaries. We launched three innovative digital tools. We engaged thousands of supporters across the country. We've assembled a brilliant team. For all this, I am deeply proud. But despite our efforts, Washington remains gridlocked. And we have failed to pass the critical legislation that our country needs. So what now? How do we learn from this? How do we do things differently? The answer lies in harnessing the disruptive energy of the tech community in a way that no one ever has before (including us).

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So how do we do this? We build a leadership class of civically-engaged people involved in the tech community, and a home for those leaders to use technology to revolutionize the way things are done. We take our organization's resources and political insight, and add the creativity and problem-solving abilities of the tech community.This idea is the heart of our chapter program.

Our monthly meet-up, FWDMonthly, is a mini-hackathon where we present our project teams with a challenge that explains the context surrounding a tough political problem. We then give our members space to test solutions to these political problems by innovating on advocacy, building tools, and producing ideas alongside a team of like-minded people. And whatever works, we amplify. 

In your opinion, why does the tech community need immigration reform now?

Because our country needs immigration reform now. Families are being torn apart. Companies are moving. People aren't able to achieve their dreams. Almost a year ago, I hired someone whose family came to the United States without documentation when he was two years old, leaving his grandparents and other relatives back in their home country. In our first interview, he told me that he fought for reform because he wanted to make sure his mother got to see her mother before she died. Well, his grandmother passed away this summer. And he and his mother couldn't say goodbye. It's enough. The time is now.

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How can an individual make the biggest impact right now?

Sign up to attend this month's FWDMonthly and bring three friends with you. Join a project team. Make your friends join, too. Push your project team to think differently and dream big. And keep coming back.

What is something you've learned about the tech community that most people don't know or would be surprised by?

Paul Graham wrote this great essay on his blog a few years back called "Cities and Ambition." In the last eighteen months, I've visited tech hubs of all sizes across the country. Silicon Valley and New York each have their own personality, as do Austin, Philly, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Durham. And when I ask supporters and leaders how they would describe their city's "ambition," the differences across regions surprise me.

Ideally, where do you envision FWD.us to be in the future?

At the helm of important issues using technology, ingenuity, and passion to make our country - and our democracy - stronger.

What inspires you to come to work each day?

Our staff. They are brilliant and inspiring, and they laugh at my jokes.

Which three songs would make up your FWD.us soundtrack?

DJ Khaled "All We Do is Win" on repeat.

Join a FWD.us Chapter near you! 

Mobile Game Creators Highlight Broken Immigration System

Posted by on October 14, 2014

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Piyush Mishra and Ravi Kumar are the creators of Get Visa, a mobile game highlighting the U.S. immigration and visa process. Their new game was recently featured by VentureBeat and their Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign is wrapping up this week. We recently sat down with the two creators to find out what inspired them to build a game based on the complicated process of applying for a visa to the U.S. 

FWD.us: What inspired you to create Get Visa?

Mishra & Kumar: Over 27.1% of the population of California is foreign born and immigrants are an important part of the equation for the state. Unlike a native-born citizen, an immigrant’s life is surrounded by ambiguity and uncertainty that is driven by their immigration status.

We've experienced first-hand the dysfunction of the immigration system and the ambiguity surrounding the immigration process. So we wanted to create an easy-to-understand guidebook for new immigrants and visa applicants to better understand the application process.

This objective led us to develop this gaming app called ‘Get Visa’.

Why make a game highlighting the U.S. immigration process?

In the 21st century where mobile apps, smart phones, and high speed internet are taken for granted, advanced immigration systems need advanced technological solutions that make the process easy to use and to understand.

Get Visa has gamified the U.S. visa application process and the entire immigration process can be experienced in a game. 

Why do you believe immigration reform is needed?

To be globally competitive, corporations must hire and retain global talents that are best in business. But getting these global talents onboard requires navigating through the immigration process, which is highly cumbersome and requires lot of documentation. Since 2004, the H-1B visa category has been constantly over subscribed. It is sad that the U.S. selects highly skilled talent by a lottery process. We really need to change the way we treat this pool of global talent, especially when countries like Chile and Canada are providing incentives to attract these talents.

The problem is not just with highly skilled labor visa (H-1B). Green Card processing has a long wait time and the process of moving from legal permanent resident to a citizen takes an average of 7 years, and could run decades-long based on the origin country of the applicant.

To be globally competitive, promote innovation, and boost the economy, it is very important that the U.S. immigration system is upgraded. It is important that the immigration system is relevant to present needs.

Both of you have experienced the visa application process, how would you like to see it improved?

We would like to see more transparency. We would like to have more authentic information on what to expect when in our application process. Modernization of system is not just the ability of the applicant to check the status online but have clear understanding of the process, and removing ambiguity or uncertainty.

We have developed this game for social good. We want people like us to easily understand the steps involved in the immigration process thus helping them to prepare and file a strong application.

Have either of you found the visa application process has hindered or delayed your professional goals?

Absolutely. The process has totally devastated our professional goals. We are driven by ambiguity and uncertainty. We can't even sign-up for simple things like a two year contract for our cell phone because we don't know whether we be allowed to stay here for two years or be required to leave immediately if our visa application is denied.

Why is being located in San Francisco / the U.S. essential to your success?

Silicon Valley is the epitome of innovation and entrepreneurship. This city has an established eco-system for every aspiring entrepreneur to dream and build new innovative products and solutions. San Francisco is also a cultural boiling point where you can meet like-minded people and highly skilled entrepreneurs from all over the world, all working on the next big things.

What is your vision for GetVisa in the future?

Get Visa game is a gaming app that we are building for social good. We would want more people to use it, play it and understand the highly complicated immigration process. Additionally, we are planning for the game to be available in both Android and iOS format, and free for download.

Join the Movement Fight for Immigration Reform Today

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