Be prepared to do the work. You can’t just wish for something and expect it to happen. You must be prepared to do the work. Set your short-term and long-term goals, and hold yourself accountable.
Do not monetize success. Success is much more than money. Success means you accomplished something you set out to do. You can’t necessarily put a dollar figure on success, and doing so is a disservice to your daily accomplishments.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Luis Quiroz, a first-generation Latino. He has faced adversity growing up an undocumented immigrant. Now he is a successful entrepreneur, founder and Lead Social Media Marketing Strategist for Trending Socials, based in San Francisco, CA. He has worked with a wide range of clients conceptualizing marketing campaigns for the City of San Francisco, to working with small businesses in a variety of industries.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in inner city San Diego, in an area called City Heights. It’s a gem of a neighborhood. San Diego borders Mexico, and I remember there used to be Border Patrol raids on the public bus- armed agents would enter the bus and ask riders for their documentation suspecting that many were undocumented. Luckily, I never experienced that, but it terrorized working immigrants in the City. There would be so much talk about incidents like that in public places. Back when I was living there and in grade school, the neighborhood was a little “rough around the edges.” It’s changed a lot though, with gentrification and other developments. I still have some friends and family there and visit often.
I grew up the middle child of 3 in a low-income household. I learned not to ask for much so as not to be disappointed- which may explain why I indulge and treat myself now as an adult- but that’s another story! I lived in the same apartment complex since I was 4 years old up until 17 when I graduated high school and moved away.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
It was my parents that made this decision for me- really. I was a baby at the time, less than one year old, when we emigrated to the U.S. at the Southern California border. My parents were living in a rural town outside of Ixtapa in Guerrero, Mexico, and they did not see a future for themselves there. Crime and corruption was rampant, and economic opportunities scarce and limited. As they were growing their family, they decided it would be better to make the move up north. They had known some relatives that had recently settled in Southern California, and ultimately made the decision to leave behind their home and families in search of a better future for us.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
Like I mentioned, I was only a baby, so I have no recollection of the actual experience. But the way the story goes, my parents hired a coyote to go through the dessert. Taking me along was too risky, so a relative of mine that was already living in the U.S. drove across the border, buckled me into a baby seat, and crossed me over as her own child. Back then, the early 90’s, it was a little easier to get away with things like that. There were fewer restrictions at the border and it was more lenient crossing into the U.S. From one day to the next, I was living in a new country, however, undocumented. That would later present a whole set of problems for me and hundreds of thousands of other “childhood arrivals” that would later be known as the “Dreamers.”
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
I am very grateful for my aunt. I call her “Tía.” She’s my uncle’s wife. A lovely woman, married into our family. At an early age, she stepped in as a mother figure and watched over me and my siblings. My parents worked a lot and were rarely home to watch over us. She definitely helped guide me as a kid, helped me grow into my own. She accompanied me on school field trips when my mom couldn’t. I practiced English with her and really saw her as a second mom. She saw me for who I was before I knew who I was. She protected me as much as she could- growing up as a queer boy in a religious and toxic macho-household was not easy. I can easily say I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for her.
So how are things going today?
I’m living the dream! You know, they coin DACA recipients as “Dreamers” because of the original “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act” (DREAM Act). But I’ve always said our parents are the original dreamers.
Unfortunately, many parents were left out of any form of immigration relief, and in a way, were penalized for making a decision for their families, and seeking a better future. I think that to be so calloused. It was their grit, their vision, their search for the American Dream that I am able to have and realize mine.
My parents were both deported. It’s been 14 years since I’ve seen my father, and 6 since I’ve seen my mother. It was a sequence of events I won’t go into, but neither of us have travel permission to visit each other.
Aside from that, I am doing well in my business. I am founder of a social media marketing agency, Trending Socials.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
One of the things I focus on is intentionally working with the undocumented community. Employment in this country is subject to having a social security number. But if you don’t have one because you happen to be undocumented, as was my case for so many years before DACA, you can’t be an employee. But you can work as an independent contractor. Meaning, you work for yourself, on a contract basis with customers or other entities. I’m intentional about working with independent contractors to provide work opportunities to other immigrants that work in the field of marketing, video, photography, graphic design, etc.
You have first-hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
Number 1: Reform. Number 2: Reform. Number 3: Reform.
A lot of people argue that immigrants need to get in the “back of the line” when it comes to the issue of immigration. The sad reality, is that there is no such thing. There is no line. People have this misconception that all you need to do is fill out an application for U.S. citizenship and wait for them to call your number. The truth is that you can only get U.S. citizenship through a spouse or family member that is already a U.S. citizen, an employer, or as a refugee. And each of those has its own host of problems. For people in my parent’s situation, there was no line for them to get in. For people facing life or death situations, there is no line to get behind. It is out of pure desperation that immigrants have to do what they have to do.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
My 5 Key Takeaways are:
- Have a vision. It’s so important to visualize where you want to be, in order to manifest it. If you can imagine something that you want for yourself, you can make it a reality. If you believe, you will achieve.
- Go to college, or don’t. College is not for everyone- but you must have a plan. Nowadays, we have so many options other than traditional college- and there are some very successful people in this world that did not go to college, and some that started but never finished. I am very happy with my education. It took me over 10 years to graduate from a 4-year university. Although, in hindsight, I wish I had entertained other alternatives.
- Be prepared to do the work. You can’t just wish for something and expect it to happen. You must be prepared to do the work. Set your short-term and long-term goals, and hold yourself accountable.
- Live authentically. There’s only one you, so don’t try to be anybody else. Don’t hide from who you are, rather embrace yourself wholly, and live your truth.
- Do not monetize success. Success is much more than money. Success means you accomplished something you set out to do. You can’t necessarily put a dollar figure on success, and doing so is a disservice to your daily accomplishments.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
One of the things that makes me most optimistic is our new President. It was a very difficult for years to have to go through just prior to Biden, and it’s a refreshing tone and total sense of relief to have a leader with compassion and a good moral compass.
I am optimistic about the way the U.S. may be viewing immigrants after the pandemic settles. Immigrants make a large majority of our frontline, healthcare, and essential workforce. Immigrants get it done, and immigrants kept things going. From our agricultural workers, to our janitorial professionals, the U.S. would not have gotten through it without them. I am hopeful the tone towards immigrants will pivot to a more positive outlook.
And I am definitely optimistic about the pandemic rebound that it appears we are marching towards. Economic recovery will be slow, but it is something promising on the horizon as more and more people in the U.S. get vaccinated, schools reopen and folks get back to work.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have lunch with Mark Cuban. He’s an entrepreneur I admire. He is succinct, direct and honest- I would truly enjoy chatting with him for a bit and learning from him, getting some advice and getting insights into his biggest lessons learned.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
The best way to connect with me is via LinkedIn and Instagram. You can also follow my work on my website, www.trendingsocials.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you for having me!