In 2007, Catalina Rojas and her husband started the Peace and Collaborative Development Network (PCDN), a social enterprise that connects more than 35,500 professionals, organizations, and students with the resources they need to scale social change. With help from their two part-time employees, their goal for this year is to grow their annual revenue from $115,000 to $150,000—however, they claim that the U.S. immigration system is holding them back. “I’m basically terrified of the current political landscape and what will happen because it could devastate our company’s growth,” she says. “Unless we reform our current system for the better, America could see an irreversible change that takes us so backwards that we can never catch up to again be the world leader in innovation and business.”
Born in Columbia, Rojas came to the United States at 26 to pursue her PhD in conflict resolution at George Mason University. Despite her initial plans to return home, she fell in love with and married an American student. After becoming a citizen in 2009, Rojas started PCDN with her husband. Since May 2016, they’ve been bootstrapping their way by relying on ad revenue, membership donations, and their personal savings.
“One of our dreams would be to have a data analyst,” says Rojas. “A lot of people have told us ‘You’re sitting on a treasure trove of data and information from your members—if only you could get your hands on someone who could do some serious algorithms and show you how to do more with that. But a company like us could never afford to hire someone in the U.S. If we could have a talented person from anywhere in the global market to help us, that would be a dream come true and would help grow our business here.”
We need to reform our system now if we want to stay competitive with all the talent that is around the world.
Recently, they started a monthly newsletter and have been looking at expanding their membership to employers who might want to use their network to recruit and hire qualified job candidates. Rojas says “There are a lot of areas we can grow” if immigration law didn’t pose obstacles to hiring the skilled workers. “I wish legislation would move as fast as technology is moving and catch up to that need,” says Rojas. “We need to reform our system now if we want to stay competitive with all the talent that is around the world.”
Rojas considers herself “extremely lucky” because her family had the financial means to help her secure a visa and, ultimately, citizenship through the proper channels—something that can be difficult, if not impossible, for many immigrants. “No one wants to be here illegally,” she says, “but some people aren’t given a choice. I wish the immigration system was more fair because right now it’s very narrow and only available to those who are privileged. I wish the U.S. would be a little more open and generous, especially with those who are suffering, like the Syrian refugees. People say all the time ‘This is the greatest country in the world,’ and I really want to see those words put to action.”