I have seen and felt firsthand the need for immigration reform in the United States. I have also witnessed Congress fail to pass significant immigration reform as proposed by the Dream Act and the immigration relief provisions that were included in the Build Back Better Act.
Passing immigration relief, such as those incorporated in these two bills, will change the lives of thousands of Floridians, help address the ongoing labor shortage, strengthen our economy, and support our local communities.
This issue is a personal one. I was a junior at Coral Reef Senior High when I found out I was undocumented, and it changed my life dramatically.
Before this realization, I was a star student who aspired to attend college out of state. In one moment, all these open doors of possibility were closed. Through the guidance of my teachers, I was able to enroll at Miami Dade Honors College, while my family and I sought to attain legal immigration status. I feel incredibly lucky that I had these opportunities, as most undocumented immigrants face barriers that prevent them from pursuing higher education and employment.
After graduating from Georgetown University and achieving permanent resident immigration status, I founded Lulu’s Ice Cream.
At Lulu’s, we treat our customers and community like family and work together to help everyone succeed. That includes buying our ingredients from local small businesses and providing programs for all employees to receive financial literacy training and personalized college advice. Just as I was able to pursue my dreams in this country, I wanted to ensure my employees had the tools necessary to follow their dreams too.
I am by no means an outlier. Millions of immigrants like me are supporting our economy and workforce by starting businesses and working diligently at their jobs. Florida’s 4.5 million immigrants pay $8.5 billion in local and state taxes and contribute $98 billion annually to Florida’s economy. We’re also job creators; with Florida’s immigrant business owners employing more than 845,000 people.
BY LUISA SANTOS
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