Texas Celebrates Immigrant Heritage Month by Hosting Immigrant-Founded Startup Pitch Challenge

Posted by Nick Baker on 08/02/2016

Immigrant Heritage Month Texas

Cobby Amoah, founder of Obaa, speaks at the Immigrant Heritage Month event in Dallas, Texas. (Photo credit: Luiz Sifuentes)

June marked the third Immigrant Heritage Month, and the Dallas Chapter of FWD.us came together to celebrate the occasion by hosting a pitch challenge featuring immigrant-founded startups.

Two companies, Obaa and La Gioia, tied for third place in the pitch competition. Obaa, founded by Cobby Amoah, focuses on streamlining data sharing and communications between healthcare providers and patients. The startup aims to improve healthcare outcomes for patients and lower costs for providers with his all-in-one platform. La Gioia, founded by William Lechuga, delivers exclusive designer uniforms at affordable prices, to businesses such as boutique hotels and restaurants. William aspires to help businesses communicate their brand to consumers through fashion. Check out this photo album for an inside look at all the pitches and presentations from the event.

Cobby and William are both immigrant entrepreneurs. Cobby is originally from Ghana, and William immigrated to America from Spain. Cobby initially came to America with the goal of becoming a doctor. However, when he realized computers were going to dramatically alter the healthcare industry, Cobby decided to shift course and found a health tech company. He dreams of drastically improving our health care system, but there are many challenges he must overcome along the way. In addition to the challenges inherent to being an entrepreneur, he must also navigate the complicated U.S. immigration system. Cobby has applied for a green card based on his extraordinary talent–but there is no guarantee it will come through.

Immigrant Heritage Month Texas

William Lechuga, founder of La Gioia, is in the process of applying for an E-2 investor visa. (Photo credit: Lilimar Oliveras)

William is a newcomer to Texas. He made the move to Dallas at the beginning of April of this year in order to grow his business and pursue opportunities that don’t exist elsewhere. William envisions La Gioia changing the way institutions present themselves to the world. In five to ten years, he sees La Gioia serving a variety of markets, including schools, airlines, and hospitals. William is in the process of applying for an E-2 investor visa. But since the E-2 is a “non-immigrant” visa, it won’t enable William to apply for a green card. Without a clear long-term immigration pathway for entrepreneurs, Cobby and William have no assurance they will be able to stay in the U.S, grow their businesses, and benefit our communities.

Cobby and William are not alone in the challenges they face as immigrant entrepreneurs. Cobby believes a Startup Visa would be beneficial both for immigrant entrepreneurs as well as the United States. He has many friends who have faced similar issues with the American immigration system. If hardworking, entrepreneurial immigrants are able to stay in the U.S., they will contribute both innovations and jobs to our communities.

To put the entrepreneurial drive of immigrants in perspective, the American Immigration Council found that immigrants started more than a quarter of a million businesses from 2006 to 2010 in Texas alone. These are businesses that generate revenue, create jobs, and contribute to the state’s economy. Immigrant entrepreneurs are at the forefront of innovation, but they lack the necessary tools to stay in the U.S and grow their businesses. Without a long-term immigration pathway for these entrepreneurs, we miss out on the economic benefits generated by companies like Obaa and La Gioia.

FWD.us’ Push For Reform tool makes it easy to advocate for immigrant entrepreneurs. Simply type in your address to find out where your member of Congress stands on immigration reform, and use the built-in tools to to contact your representative via social media, a phone call, or even a custom letter.

It’s up to you to let our leaders in Congress know we support entrepreneurs like Cobby and William.

ICYMI: FWD.us Taps Republican Policy Expert Mark Delich To Drive Congressional Outreach

Posted on 08/02/2016

Washington, DC — FWD.us today announced the hire of seasoned Hill veteran Mark Delich as director of congressional affairs.

Mark’s hire adds another powerful conservative voice to FWD.us’ growing bipartisan team ahead of the 2016 election and beyond. In his new role, Mark will help drive the organization’s congressional outreach efforts and will continue to build relationships with bipartisan lawmakers in key offices to help push immigration reform through Congress in 2017.

Mark comes to FWD.us with more than a decade of public policy experience, most recently as a senior advisor to Senator John McCain, where he was on the forefront of issues involving homeland security and immigration. There, he served as a lead staffer on a number of high-profile legislative initiatives, including the comprehensive immigration reform bill S. 744, which passed in the Senate with an overwhelming majority in December 2013.

Prior to advising Sen. McCain, Mark was the director of policy at the Reform Institute, where he set the strategic direction for the Institute’s policy work on immigration and homeland security issues. His impressive background serving as a lead staffer for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will add considerable strength to FWD.us’ efforts to update the high-skilled immigration system.

“Mark’s expert knowledge of immigration and border security issues will be a tremendous asset for our organization and our efforts on the Hill,” said FWD.us President Todd Schulte. “We’re thrilled to leverage his bipartisan experience working with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle as we fight to get commonsense immigration reform done in 2017.”

A nationally-recognized public policy expert, Mark will continue to be at the center of immigration reform efforts as a senior staffer at FWD.us.

“FWD.us has been a great advocate in pushing for sensible immigration policies that will secure our borders, reform our visa system and provide an earned pathway to citizenship for the millions of people who are living in the United States without papers,” said Mark Delich. “I’m excited to join them and continue fighting for policies—like comprehensive immigration reform—that make sense for our economy and our country.”

FWD.us Statement on Immigration Reform at DNC

Posted by FWD.us on 07/26/2016

Today, FWD.us President Todd Schulte released the following statement:

“Hearing from Astrid Silva, a DREAMer, and Karla Ortiz, a U.S. Citizen with an undocumented mother under fear of seeing her family torn apart due to congressional inaction, was a terrific reminder of why right after the election is the time for both parties to come together and pass bipartisan immigration reform legislation right out of the gate in 2017.”

Continuing the Fight for Undocumented Families & Looking Forward to Immigration Reform in 2017

Posted by Gabriela Cid on 07/25/2016

DC-blog-post-cover-photoWe were dealt a huge blow by the Supreme Court of the United States’ 4-4 ruling on the
U.S. v. Texas case. This ruling meant that Expanded DACA and DAPA would not become a reality; Instead, countless individuals in our communities would continue to live their lives in the shadows. Up until Thursday, June 23, our families, our stories, and our faces were shown by the media and given attention. We were newsworthy then. But on Friday, June 24, the news cycle moved on to the next hot topic. Meanwhile, our families remained the same: undocumented and fearful, at risk of being separated. 


It pained us to know that our struggles were so easily forgotten. So many individuals bravely shared their stories of resilience and their need to be recognized as human beings in American society. And yet nothing had changed. We knew that we had to keep fighting, but we were also in the process of healing and accepting that we had to keep moving forward.


While the media attention may have shifted, we wanted to share our appreciation with members of Congress who supported Expanded DACA and DAPA and fought beside us. We wanted to let them know that our families were still here and hurting, but hopeful.


Weeks after the Court’s decision, we organized a fly-in to Washington D.C. Individuals from across the country came together on Thursday, July 14, to both thank the elected officials who championed our cause and remind them to keep fighting for our communities.


For some of the participants, it was our first time visiting Washington D.C. to meet with members of Congress. Among these first-timers was Jonathan Sanchez, a U.S. citizen. Jonathan’s mother is undocumented and would have been eligible for DAPA. He wanted to remind members of Congress that immigrants are hard-working and only seeking a better life for their children. “As her son, I’ve seen [my mother] work hard in every job she’s done to make sure that my siblings and I had food on the table,” shared Jonathan.


We met with both Republican and Democrat members of Congress like Congressman Valadao (R-CA), Congressman Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Congressman Gutierrez (D-IL), Congressman Castro (D-TX), and others.


DAPA-eligible participant Marlene Burga had the opportunity to share her story with Congressman Gutierrez. “[It is] so important for me to know that we can have a direct conversation with our legislators who  understand we need to have better results for immigration reform,” said Burga. “I know that we can work together to keep pushing our country forward, a country with millions of parents like myself that live in fear of being separated away from their children.


A shared reflection we were left with at the end of the day was that we are stronger together; We must keep fighting as a group. Our communities depend on a unified approach to fix our broken immigration system–an approach where impacted individuals and Congressional representatives listen to one another to find the best solution.


“[This opportunity] helped [me] realize that the fight for immigration reform is not one of ‘us vs. them,’ but rather a fight that we are all in this together. It was a testament to the fact that there are still lawmakers interested in advancing the common good, as well as representatives who are willing to give a voice to those whose calls for help are often–too often–shut out,” said participant Jesus Rodriguez.


Our conversations with these congressmen and women gave us a glimpse of hope. They helped us gain some closure after the defeat in the Supreme Court. But more importantly, they reminded us that there is a lot of work to be done to show people that comprehensive immigration reform must be a priority in 2017. As immigrants, and children of immigrants, we are committed to this fight.


Join us and tell Congress it’s time to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation during the first 100 days of 2017.