Undocumented business owners look back on success and forward to the uncertain future

Proposed in 2001, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act was a piece of bipartisan legislation that did not pass, though it would have granted undocumented immigrants temporary residency and later, permanent residency. College students that would have benefited from this are referred to as DREAMers.

“That’s the dream — for us to have a permanent solution to this big dilemma,” said Gilberto Sosa, a supply chain management junior and DACA recipient.

In 2012, the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival policy was passed by President Barack Obama, allowing undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents to lawfully go to school and receive a driver’s license and work permit.

One resource for DACA is TheDream.US, a college defense program for DACA students that partners with colleges that have a high population of DREAMers.

TheDream.US program director, Gaby Pacheco, has been involved in immigration rights for over a decade. In 2012, as the political director for United We Dream, Pacheco was actively involved in the birth of the DACA program.

Originally an undocumented person herself, Pacheco has made it her goal to help young people receive an education. She works with the Maricopa schools including Phoenix College, South Mountain Community College, Gateway Community College and ASU.

TheDream.US scholars have been reaching out regarding the results of the 2016 presidential election with uncertainty, asking what this means for them. With 1,700 students involved in the program, Pacheco encourages them to share their success stories.

“A lot of people don’t know or understand the bigger picture of what we are doing here,” Pacheco said. “We are very much sewed into the heart of the community.”

TheDream.US has sent out a message to all of their scholars and partnered colleges saying that they stand with them. A written statement to the community regarding the election results can also be found on their website.

There is an uncertain number of DREAMers attending ASU, but two students and business owners have decided to share their stories of success despite their circumstances.

Gilberto Sosa: Sosa Furnishing

Sosa, a triple-major supply chain management, economics and management  junior, co-owns Sosa Furnishing. The business focuses on cabinetry and wood finishing for clients in Scottsdale and the outskirts of Phoenix. Sosa Furnishing has become a family business that employs members of the community.

“It’s a nice way to get people involved,” Sosa said.

Sosa came to Arizona from Chihuahua, Mexico with his family when he was 11 years old. He has visited 48 of the 50 U.S. states. Sosa wishes to visit his family in Chihuahua, but if DACA students leave the country, they lose their DACA rights.

“Unfortunately in Mexico right now, it is a very dangerous place,” Sosa said. “All of the people that I grew up with — there were 11 other children around — they are all dead now. So we were the fortunate people who got to leave the area before all that happened.”

In 2012, because of DACA, Sosa enrolled in Phoenix College to take one affordable chemistry class.

Soon enough, professors and other PC staff recognized his potential, awarding Sosa scholarships to further his success. At this time, Sosa was in the Student Public Policy Forum, interned with pharmaceutical and technology companies, was a director of strategic planning for the Arizona Students’ Association, president of the PC Phi Theta Kappa international honors society and worked for Chicanos Por La Causa.

“Now I had a voice," Sosa said. "I could speak about what was going on in the community."

After receiving the All-Arizona All-USA scholarship, he was informed that the scholarship would not be accepted at ASU because of his legal status. Instead, the ASU Office of Outreach and W.P. Carey School of Business have granted him scholarships to attend ASU.

He recently took three classes at Harvard University and is currently the philanthropy chair of W.P. Carey’s school council, pursuing multiple degrees, taking 23 credits and will be interning with Microsoft. Originally, Sosa attended ASU to study law and public policy.

“Going into business has really opened my eyes to this world that is very different from public policy,” Sosa said. “Business is very fast-paced and public policy is in a gridlock. I think I have much more of an impact as a community leader.”

In regards to President-Elect Donald Trump’s stance on immigration, Sosa has tried to think about his future if Trump would start mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and eliminate DACA.

“It’s scary, and I hope people take the time to really get to understand who we are, who I am and everybody else before they make a judgement,” he said.

Sosa said he doesn’t blame voters for their decision because of the rapid changes in the world, but he is saddened by the repercussions of Trump’s proposed policies.

“I don’t think this is a political thing," Sosa said on his political differences with others. "It shouldn't be a political thing. it’s a human thing.” 

Máxima Guerrero: Ganaz Apparel

An ASU DACA junior majoring in organizational leadership, Máxima Guerrero, is also the co-founder of Ganaz Apparel. Ganaz is a Hispanic-heritage-inspired activewear line that sells men and women’s t-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops and stickers.

A photo posted by Con Ganaz (@ganazapparel) on

Guerrero moved to the U.S. from Morelos, Mexico at five years old. She was undocumented and unable to receive a work permit until 2013. As a DACA recipient, Guerrero’s efforts in activism and persistence has given her the chance to start her own business, have an education and gain a voice.

Read more: "Latina co-founders of 'Ganaz' activewear build their business with strength"

Guerrero met her future co-founder of Ganaz, Carla Chavarria, at a Suffrage meeting made up of ASU students dedicated to fighting for higher education and immigrant rights. Suffrage has since moved on to become a youth-led nonprofit, the Arizona Dream Act Coalition.

Since 2010, Guerrero has been involved in immigration rights activism and continues to celebrate culture through her company.

Guerrero and Chavarria first had the idea for Ganaz in June 2016, and the company took off in August. With fast progress, the Ganaz co-founders plan to collaborate with more artists and gyms in the future to broaden their brand.

“I think we are really developing a concept of integrating, in the future, different ideas," Guerrero said.

Along with other DACA students, Guerrero fears the unknown because President-Elect Trump has voiced his clear opinion on immigration. She said she is concerned on deportation as a DACA recipient and for her family.

“There are people that are going to get up and just leave or self deport,” Guerrero said. “I think unity is the best thing that can happen to us. That’s what we really need now more than ever.”

Sosa and Guerrero have both succeeded academically and in their personal businesses, despite the political turmoil on the horizon for undocumented immigrants.

“We became an inspiration to find one way or another to go through school and not give up on what (we) want to accomplish,” Guerrero said. “I would say that the same way we’ve been fighting for, that’s the same way we are going to keep on fighting now.”


Reach the reporter at lhgoldbe@asu.edu or follow @leahxgoldberg on Twitter.

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