Zuckerberg, Undocumented Immigrants ‘Hack’ for Immigration Reform

Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times, November 20, 2013

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg brought undocumented immigrants to Silicon Valley to “hack” for immigration reform.

Twenty immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children began taking part in a 25-hour “hackathon” Wednesday at LinkedIn’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

The young software programmers broke into small groups to spend all night coming up with new applications as part of an effort to put the spotlight back on what they say is an urgent need for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Silicon Valley tech companies are pushing for legislation that would overhaul the nation’s immigration laws and loosen restrictions on visas for skilled workers such as engineers.

Zuckerberg called immigration “one of the biggest civil rights issues of our time.”

“We are at a critical moment in the movement,” he said. “It is really important to keep pushing ahead.”

Despite the technology industry’s efforts to put pressure on the Republican-led House to vote on immigration reform before the end of the year, observers say it’s likely that the issue will spill over into 2014 and possibly 2015.

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Among the apps the “dreamers” are building include one that will help high-profile people share their support for immigration reform with their fans and followers on social media and another that would educate undocumented immigrants on their rights using virtual game play.

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Technology veterans including Zuckerberg, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston were on hand to advise the young coders Wednesday.

Zuckerberg organized his first hackathon in his Harvard dorm room, and Facebook employees routinely pull all-nighters to build new products and features. Fwd.us borrowed the concept from Silicon Valley as a way to draw attention to young undocumented immigrants who call themselves Dreamers.

Justino Mora, a 24-year-old UCLA student, said his group would focus on building a mobile app to tell people who their representatives are in Washington, where those representatives stand on immigration reform and ways in which people can take action, either by signing a petition or sending a message to their representatives.

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