Tech and Immigration Reform: Zuckerberg's FWD.us Hosts Hackathon
BY Laura Montini
The DREAMer Hackathon hopes to spur creative technologies that impact immigration reform.
A group of 20 undocumented twenty-somethings from across the country gathered Wednesday at the LinkedIn headquarters in Mountain View for the commencement FWD.us’ 24-hour long DREAMer Hackathon. Founded by Silicon Valley tech titans, including Mark Zuckerberg, FWD.us is an organization that aims to promote comprehensive immigration reform in the US. Hackers were tasked with creating technologies that do the same.
Joining Zuckerberg, executive Chairman of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston -- all founders ofFWD.us -- were on hand to talk about why immigration reform is important to them.
Getting Founders On Board with FWD.us
Zuckerberg shared a story about one of the first times he was motivated to get involved with immigration reform. Earlier this year he was teaching at an after school program at a middle school in Silicon Valley.
“One day after school, I asked the students how they were thinking about going to college,” Zuckerberg said. “And one of my top students put his hand out and said, ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to go to college because I’m undocumented.’”
Not too long after, Zuckerberg began to rally other members of the tech community -- including Houston -- to help found FWD.us. He said the response was anything but disappointing.
“I think that this is one of the biggest civil rights issues of our time, and it makes me proud of the community that I’m a part of out here that it was so easy to rally a lot of the leaders to come in and try to support this effort,”Zuckerberg said.
Identity, Morality and Economics
Hoffman laid out the three reasons why FWD.us was hosting the DREAMer Hackathon: identity, morality and economics. Not only has immigration always been a part of America’s past and should it be a part of its future, but economically it makes sense, Hoffman said.
“Something like 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies, have had a first or second-generation immigrant as part of the founders,” he said.
“This is what it is to be American. This is what it is to say, I can improve my life, I can improve what is possible, and I can do it by thinking about business to start.”
24 Hours Is Plenty of Time
Houston encouraged the hackers to use technology to get their message to Congress. He prepped them for the coming 24 hours, telling them that they’d find it is amazing what they can do working with a group of smart people for a short time.
“People would be shocked what you can accomplish in 24 hours and when you go from talking about something to arguing about something to actually doing something,” Houston said.“It’s really amazing what can happen … and I think our friends in Washington can take note of that."
The coders will be working on their projects until 5 pm Thursday, and after will present them before a panel of judges. You can watch the livestreamed presentations at 6pm here.
LAURA MONTINI is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco. @lmmontini