Center for American Progress

Despite Barriers, DACA Entrepreneurs Contribute To Their Communities

Despite Barriers, DACA Entrepreneurs Contribute To Their Communities

DACA has empowered its recipients to pursue entrepreneurship and continue helping their families, their communities, and the U.S. economy in the face of significant barriers.

In this article
Dreamers and DACA supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dreamers and DACA supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 18, 2020. (Getty/CQ-Roll Call Inc./Bill Clark)

Tobore Oweh came to the United States at age 7 from Nigeria. While applying for college, she discovered she was undocumented; and without a Social Security number, she could not pursue her dream of obtaining an interior design degree.1 Although her “dreams of going to school were crushed,” she persisted in building a career. After receiving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012, she was able to take on several job opportunities to follow her passion for design—sometimes as a model and other times as a freelance floral designer. Currently, she is the owner and creative director of The Petal Effect, a floral and design boutique in California that grossed its first six figures in 2022.2 DACA continues to be instrumental in providing Oweh a chance to explore opportunities freely and grow her small business. Losing these protections would be devastating not only for Oweh’s work but also for her community and all the customers her business serves with passion and dedication.

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Oweh’s story of perseverance and creativity is one among the hundreds of thousands of stories of DACA recipients. Since its creation, DACA has been a critical lifeline for Oweh and the more than 835,000 other recipients who arrived in the United States as children and have lived here continuously since June 15, 2007. Not only does it provide temporary protection from deportation; recipients are also eligible for two-year, renewable work authorization.3 While Congress has so far failed to enact a comprehensive pathway to citizenship, the existence of DACA allows recipients to remain with their families and communities and live with dignity, increased stability, and safety while participating in the formal work economy.

Since its creation, DACA has been a critical lifeline for Tobore Oweh and the more than 835,000 other recipients who arrived in the United States as children.

Despite a majority of Americans supporting the creation of a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Republican attorneys general have repeatedly pursued litigation to dismantle DACA’s temporary protections.4 In September 2023, Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. Southern District of Texas ruled against DACA for the second time, this time rejecting the Biden administration’s efforts to codify DACA in regulation.5 Earlier, in 2021, Judge Hanen ruled that DACA was unlawful, finding that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had violated the Administrative Procedure Act when DACA was created.6 While current recipients are still eligible to renew DACA as the case heads to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for further review, they remain in a state of uncertainty.7 Additionally, this ruling has prevented any new DACA applicants from receiving protections.

In addition to enabling recipients to move to better-paying jobs more aligned with their training and to take advantage of educational opportunities, DACA has allowed recipients to pursue their dreams of entrepreneurship and grow their businesses, support themselves and their families, and give back to their communities. Indeed, according to a 2022 Center for American Progress survey of DACA recipients, more than 12,000 DACA recipients own their own businesses, creating jobs and strengthening local economies across the country.8

This issue brief highlights the stories of three DACA-recipient entrepreneurs, detailing their successes, challenges, and contributions to their communities. These stories illustrate how DACA has helped recipients pursue the American dream, as it provides them with the stability required to prosper in the face of congressional inaction on desperately needed immigration reform.

Learn about DACA recipients’ contributions to Social Security and Medicare

DACA gives recipients access to resources to start and grow businesses

Starting a business takes tremendous courage, financial support, and hard work. While anyone, regardless of immigration status, can obtain an employer identification number so that they can hire workers and file business tax returns9—and anyone can pay taxes using an individual taxpayer identification number—DACA provides its recipients with a sense of security, stability, and access to greater support for their business needs.

Christian Serrano, a DACA recipient and CEO of Christian Serrano Construction Group, attributes his success to DACA,10 saying that it “really gave me that motivation where I can breathe freely now in this country and actually be someone—and prove to people that [DACA] recipients are here to help this economy out to help this country grow.”11 Serrano started his family-owned home design and construction company in Texas in 2018, driven by a strong desire to provide financial stability for his parents. He started after receiving DACA, opening bank and credit lines with vendors and suppliers that gave him more support to run and grow his business.12 In addition to creating jobs for subcontractors, the company currently employs 13 permanent staff members, including some of his family members, and in 2022, it generated $5 million in revenue.13 Serrano’s contributions to the local economy have not gone unnoticed: He was recently honored with Dallas Business Journal’s 2023 “40 Under 40” award.14

[DACA] really gave me that motivation where I can breathe freely now in this country and actually be someone—and prove to people that [DACA] recipients are here to help this economy out, to help this country grow. Christian Serrano, DACA recipient and CEO of Christian Serrano Construction Group

Notably, DACA-recipient entrepreneurs pay into local, state, and federal tax systems.15 And as businesses expand, so do their revenue and tax payments. As Oweh shared about her floral design business: “There are all kinds of taxes I have to contribute to, being that I sell a product and buy wholesale. There are state taxes, federal taxes, sales taxes.” Because Oweh hires other freelancers for larger events and sources her flowers from other businesses, she views her business as interwoven into the local and national economy.

DACA protections from deportation give these business owners access to more stability and security, which has allowed them greater economic success and security that they can share with their families and communities.

DACA recipients give back to their communities

In addition to making economic contributions, DACA business owners give back to their communities in myriad ways. They help new entrepreneurs start businesses, ensure their own businesses are responsive to community needs, and bring vitality and diversity to their communities.

DACA recipient Alejandro Flores-Muñoz comes from a long family tradition of entrepreneurship;16 his mother baked and sold cheesecake and flan out of the family kitchen to survive after arriving in the United States in 1997.17 But since gaining DACA protections in 2012, the same year DACA was implemented, Flores-Muñoz has launched several business ventures of his own—from selling sunglasses, operating a food truck, and catering to now running Combi Cafe, a Mexican coffee shop in Colorado that offers catering options. While operating these businesses, he learned how to build a website, provide customer service, satisfy licensing and certification requirements, and file business tax returns.

The knowledge gaps that Flores-Muñoz overcame in launching his own businesses inspired him to offer mentorship and advice to other aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs. Currently, his cafe employs five people, and it is his priority to give them the right tools, skills, and knowledge to start their own catering businesses. He has also self-published a guidebook detailing how immigrants, regardless of status, can start their own businesses. “I don’t just employ people,” he says. “I strive to elevate them. And so, I train my staff to take on their own catering business events—helping them create their own logo, having them create their own intake forms to be able to invoice people when they do caterings, allowing them to use my commercial kitchen to be able to do their catering events.”

I don’t just employ people; I strive to elevate them. Alejandro Flores-Muñoz, DACA recipient and owner of Combi Cafe

Additionally, Flores-Muñoz recently secured a $200,000 catering contract with the city of Denver to provide meals for newly arrived migrants in emergency shelters. His drive to understand how businesses are registered and run made this milestone possible.

Like Flores-Muñoz, Oweh and Serrano are also giving back to their communities. Serrano’s business buys, develops, and builds property for low-income families, and he hopes to further this support by developing affordable multifamily building units and providing more home ownership opportunities. Oweh, meanwhile, has held workshops on entrepreneurship and participated in high school programs through Immigrants Rising, a California-based organization that provides resources and support to undocumented immigrants to pursue their education and business aspirations.18

These business owners are acutely aware of the impacts that DACA has had on their lives, and they are driven by a sense of responsibility to help others achieve success by sharing their experiences and knowledge.

DACA recipients face barriers as business owners

Although DACA has provided many opportunities for these small business owners, many barriers prevent them from fully realizing their dreams and living free of uncertainty over their legal status.

Alejandro Flores-Muñoz explained that “entrepreneurship wasn’t designed with DACA recipients or immigrants in mind” and that the hardship he faced was in part due to the steep learning curve that came with “not knowing the process” as he navigated registering his business. Serrano, another first-generation business owner, relied heavily on his family as his primary source of support. Although DACA opened the doors for him to build and grow his construction company, he still experienced obstacles related to his immigration status. For example, a loan application that would have helped him expand his business was denied due to his lack of citizenship. While the protection that DACA provides has lifted a tremendous weight off these entrepreneurs and other DACA recipients, its temporary nature is a source of anxiety that could prevent future entrepreneurs from fully pursuing their dreams.

As DACA is challenged in the courts and its future is placed in jeopardy, these entrepreneurs are aware that their protections could easily be taken away. Oweh shared that while applying for renewals every two years, “just knowing that they could say ‘no’ if they want for no reason” reminds her that DACA is not permanent. She constantly lives with the reality that if DACA is rescinded, she will have to step away from her business. Similarly, Flores-Muñoz said that although DACA brought hope to him, the uncertainty of its legal status is “scary,” especially for people who are reliant on work authorization.

A pathway to citizenship is necessary

A pathway to citizenship would honor the contributions that DACA recipients—such as Serrano, Flores-Muñoz, and Oweh—have made to their communities, to their local economies, and to the nation’s economic growth. It would also provide them with the security and stability required to plan for the future, grow their businesses, hire more employees, and contribute even more to their communities.

Although the Biden administration has taken steps to fortify DACA, upward of 100,000 immigrants whose initial DACA applications are pending remain barred from its protections due to a federal court ruling in the ongoing litigation.19 Moreover, since DACA’s eligibility requirements have not been updated since 2012, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers do not meet the current criteria to qualify for DACA.20 A pathway to citizenship would allow Dreamers to integrate more fully into society, continue contributing to the country, and have more opportunities to pursue their dreams, which would benefit not only them and their families but also the United States as a whole.

Our faith has been tested over and over and over, and we continue to believe that there is a light at the end. Christian Serrano, DACA recipient and CEO of Christian Serrano Construction Group

The proposed American Dream and Promise Act, for example, would extend permanent status and protections to more than 2 million Dreamers already living and working in the United States. A 2021 CAP report estimated this would increase the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by a cumulative total of $799 billion over 10 years.21 CAP’s analysis also finds that providing a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants would boost the U.S. GDP by a cumulative total of $1.7 trillion over 10 years. Under both of these scenarios, wages for all American workers would also increase.22


DACA recipients are interwoven into the fabric of the nation’s communities and economy. Due to DACA eligibility requirements set in 2012, all current recipients have lived in the United States since at least June 15, 2007, with many calling the country home for most of their lives. As the courts decide DACA’s fate, the futures of hundreds of thousands of recipients and their communities remain in limbo. Regardless of how the courts ultimately rule, DACA protections have consistently resulted in significant and enduring benefits for recipients, their communities, and the entire country.

DACA recipients contribute positively to the collective well-being of the United States through their employment, entrepreneurship, and tax contributions. Moreover, the protections that DACA offers have helped and encouraged recipients to pursue their dreams to start and expand their own businesses. Stripping recipients of their DACA protections would not only remove an important lifeline that allows families and communities to stay together; it would also harm the entire U.S. economy.

Congress must take immediate action to fix the nation’s broken immigration system, including by creating a pathway to citizenship for current DACA recipients, those locked out of enrollment, and undocumented immigrants more broadly. Such action would recognize immigrants’ rich contributions to the country and grow the economy.

In the meantime, DACA recipients continue to hope for the best outcome. As Serrano said, “Our faith has been tested over and over and over, and we continue to believe that there is a light at the end.”

See CAP’s 2022 DACA survey results

The authors would like to thank Christian Serrano, Alejandro Flores-Muñoz, and Tobore Oweh for their generosity and openness in sharing their inspiring stories; Estefanía Hermosillo from Immigrants Rising for facilitating interviewee connections; and CAP’s Debu Gandhi, Will Roberts, and Tom Jawetz for their feedback.


  1. Tobore Oweh, owner and creative director, The Petal Effect, interview with authors via Zoom, September 27, 2023, on file with authors.
  2. Ibid.
  3. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Number of Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: Requests by Intake and Case Status, by Fiscal Year, August 15, 2012 – March 31, 2023,” available at (last accessed on January 2024).
  4. American Civil Liberties Union, “New Poll Shows Majority of Voters Support the Dream Act, Want Citizenship Legislation Included in Recovery Package,” Press release, June 15, 2021, available at; Jens Manuel Krogstad, “Americans broadly support legal status for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children,” Pew Research Center, June 17, 2020, available at; Rebecca Falconer, “9 GOP-led states ask judge to end DACA program protections for ‘Dreamers’,” Axios, February 1, 2023, available at
  5. Miriam Jordan, “Federal Judge Again Rules DACA Is Illegal,” The New York Times, September 13, 2023, available at
  6. Juan A. Lozano, Associated Press, “Federal judge declares DACA illegal again, issue likely to be decided by Supreme Court,” PBS NewsHour, September 13, 2023,,any%20actions%20against%20DACA%20recipients.
  7. National Immigration Law Center, “DACA,” September 13, 2023, available at
  8. Tom K. Wong and others, “DACA Boosts Recipients’ Well-Being and Economic Contributions: 2022 Survey Results,” Center for American Progress, April 27, 2023, available at
  9. Internal Revenue Service, “Employer ID Numbers,” available at (last accessed January 2024); Internal Revenue Service, “Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN),” available at (last accessed January 2024).
  10. Christian Serrano Construction Group, “Home,” available at (last accessed January 2024).
  11. Christian Serrano, CEO, Christian Serrano Construction Group, interview with authors via Zoom, September 7, 2023, on file with authors.
  12. Christian Serrano, personal communication with authors via email.
  13. Christian Serrano, interview with authors via Zoom.
  14. Alexa Reed, “40 Under 40: Q&A with Christian Serrano, CEO, Director of Operations at Christian Serrano Construction Group,” Dallas Business Journal, July 21, 2023,
  15. Nicole Prchal Svajlenka and Trinh Q. Truong, “The Demographic and Economic Impacts of DACA Recipients: Fall 2021 Edition,” Center for American Progress, November 23, 2021, available at
  16. Alejandro Flores-Muñoz, owner, Combi Cafe, interview with authors via Zoom, September 20, 2023, on file with authors.
  17. Alejandro Flores-Muñoz, personal communication with authors via email.
  18. Immigrants Rising, “Tobore Oweh,” available at (last accessed January 2024).
  19. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” Federal Register 87 (167) (2022): 53152–53300, available at; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Number of Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”; National Immigration Law Center, “DACA.”
  20. Migration Policy Institute, “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Data Tools,” available at (last accessed January 2024).
  21. Giovanni Peri and Reem Zaiour, “Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants Would Boost U.S. Economic Growth” (Center for American Progress, 2021), available at
  22. Ibid.

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Rosa Barrientos-Ferrer

Senior Policy Analyst

Silva Mathema

Director, Immigration Policy

Trinh Q. Truong

Policy Analyst, Immigration


Immigration Policy

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