Immigrants Rising and Partner Organizations Awarded $5.41 Million to Support Undocumented Entrepreneurs





For Immediate Release

Contact: Tony Choi | tony@immigrantsrising.org | (201) 308-3934

Immigrants Rising and eight partner organizations to form coalition serving immigrant entrepreneurs across California.

(June 2, 2021 – San Francisco) – Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more undocumented Californians are finding new paths for income generation through entrepreneurship. Over the past ten years, Immigrants Rising has supported undocumented individuals who are new to entrepreneurship and freelancing in developing an entrepreneurial mindset and learning how to start a business or work independently. This has been done through the creation of educational resources, funding opportunities and the development of an ecosystem that includes undocumented entrepreneurs and the individuals and organizations that support them.

Immigrants Rising is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a California Social Entrepreneurs for Economic Development Grant (“SEED Grant”) of $5.41 million, which will enable us to disburse $4.06 million in microgrants and technical assistance to more than 650 immigrant entrepreneurs across the state, over the span of one year.

In addition to financial support, the grantee entrepreneurs will receive entrepreneurship training through Spark, the online entrepreneurship hub powered by Immigrants Rising. Spark will be made available in English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Korean. Selected grantees will receive technical assistance to help launch or grow their businesses.

“SEED provides us with the opportunity to highlight the contributions of undocumented entrepreneurs. Despite being underserved and often invisible, undocumented entrepreneurs have found innovate ways to exist and thrive against many odds,” said Iliana Perez, Ph.D, Director of Research & Entrepreneurship of Immigrants Rising. “As the daughter of immigrant entrepreneurs, I could not be more proud to work on an initiative that acknowledges their existence and opens the opportunity for many more individuals like them to prosper.”

Immigrants Rising is proud to bring together a coalition of nine partner organizations, who will ensure that diverse immigrant constituencies across the state of California are able to benefit from this initiative.

The coalition is comprised of the following organizations: Immigrants Rising, Ahri Center, Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC), Dreamers in Tech, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Inclusive Action for the City, La Cocina, Pilipino Workers Center, and the UndocuBlack Network. These organizations serve a wide array of ethnic groups, geographic constituencies, and industries, and have decades of experience building relationships with the diverse communities that form an integral part of California’s economy.

In collaboration with partner organizations, Immigrants Rising hopes to establish a model for sustainable and equitable support that will aim to open new possibilities for the undocumented community throughout the initiative and beyond.

“Ahri Center is proud to be a coalition partner and we are excited to provide Korean in-language support and training for immigrant entrepreneurs. This initiative will provide the opportunity to pave a new path forward,” said Jenny Seon, Legal Services Director of Ahri Center.

“Immigrants in the Central Valley constitute a fundamental element of the regional economy. Through our work on entrepreneurship, CVIIC has also provided evidence that their contributions to our national economy can be substantially greater if we provide them with the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills,” said Jesus Martinez, Ph.D, Executive Director of CVIIC. “As a prominent scholar argued in one of our webinars a few days ago, in the aftermath of the pandemic, the Central Valley economy cannot be uplifted if we do not uplift immigrants as well.”

“Immigrants are twice as likely to become startup founders,” said Tonatiuh Ramos, Director of Dreamers in Tech. “With the increasing demand for work and diversity in tech and STEM fields, SEED will help undocumented entrepreneurs put their professional skills and expertise to work.”

“Undocumented immigrant entrepreneurs have always found ways to be business owners, despite the many challenges we still face,” said Jorge Gutierrez, Executive Director of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. “SEED will be able to support and uplift the ideas and businesses of undocumented entrepreneurs across California.”

“Los Angeles County has upwards of 1,000,000 undocumented immigrants, and despite the essential role they played in getting us through the COVID-19 pandemic, too many have been left behind,” said Rudy Espinoza, Executive Director of Inclusive Action. “We are excited to work with Immigrants Rising and other partners to ensure that immigrant entrepreneurs like street vendors have a dedicated pathway to receive support. We look forward to honoring them with not only our praise, but with assistance and financial support.”

“For 16 years, La Cocina has focused on small business incubation with a vision to increase inclusivity in the food industry and offer equitable opportunity for business ownership and a pathway to economic freedom,” said Michelle Magat, Director of Development of La Cocina. “We’re honored to partner with Immigrants Rising to provide greater support for undocumented entrepreneurs through our outreach efforts and technical assistance.”

“Immigrant workers and their families in the Pilipino community are still in crisis due to the impacts of this pandemic, especially those who are undocumented,” said Aquilina Soriano Versoza, Executive Director of Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California. “Together with this collaborative led by Immigrants Rising, PWC is proud to launch this SEED program, which is one critical way that immigrants will be able to be supported during this pandemic, through the recovery period. If the immigrant community does not recover, then California will not be able to recover.”

“UndocuBlack’s work centers around the issues faced by the close to 600,000 Black undocumented people in this country that are African, Caribbean, and Black-Latinx — many of whom have supported their families through entrepreneurship. From hair braiding businesses to food catering, clothing, and taxi business our people have used their vast talents and ancestral know-hows to build lives and communities around the country,” said Yoliswa Cele, Director of Narrative & Media of the UndocuBlack Network. “The opportunity to contribute in the development and uplift of their tirelessly hustle and drive is an immensely rewarding experience that will have positive life changing ripple effects throughout our community.”

The program and the application will open for eligible entrepreneurs starting in July 2021. Immigrants Rising and the partner organizations will share out the application details in the following days. Visit immigrantsrising.org/spark to get the latest updates about the initiative.

Immigrants Rising’s entrepreneurship work has been made possible with the support of the Chavez Family Foundation; Charity Stars (Alejandro Sanz Dreamer Campaign); Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen & Loewy LLP; FWD.us Education Fund; Google LLC; Grove Foundation; James Gutierrez; Elise, Robert, and Colleen Haas; Hawkins-Strauss Fund at Silicon Valley Community Foundation; Miguel B Hernandez; Latinos in Tech Giving Circle; Jorge Ramos; Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation; Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock; the Levi Strauss Foundation; Technology Industry Group; Unbound Philanthropy; Elisha Wiesel; and others.


Founded in 2006, Immigrants Rising transforms individuals and fuels broader changes. With resources and support, undocumented young people are able to get an education, pursue careers, and build a brighter future for themselves and their community.

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Immigrants Rising Inclusive Action for the City La Cocina Pilipino Workers Center
Ahri CVIIC Dreamers in Tech Familia TQLM UndocuBlack Network