- Jeff Bezos has donated $US33 million to provide college scholarships to a group of immigrants who were brought to the US as children and temporarily protected from deportation under a program the Trump administration is phasing out.
- Bezos has been vocal in pressuring the Trump administration and Congress to bring back protections for these immigrants, known as Dreamers.
- Bezos said he donated in honour of his father, who fled to the US from Cuba alone when he was 15, went to college, and lived the American dream.
As members of Congress debate the future of a program that temporarily protects from deportation nearly 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the US as children, the world’s richest man has delivered a strong message.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, and MacKenzie Bezos, his wife, are donating $US33 million to TheDream.us, an organisation that helps these immigrants, known as Dreamers, pay for a college education.
The money will fund the education of 1,000 Dreamers who have graduated from high school and are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which began under President Barack Obama and granted permission to legally work in the US.
But because Dreamers still live in a legal grey zone, some forms of paying for college, like government grants and student loans, are often unavailable to them.
Bezos said he donated in honour of his father, Miguel Bezos, who fled to the US from Cuba alone when he was 15. He later attended the University of Albuquerque and went on to work at Exxon as a petroleum engineer before meeting his eventual wife, Jackie Gise, the daughter of a high-level official on the Atomic Energy Commission.
“My dad came to the US when he was 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan,” Jeff Bezos in a statement explaining the donation. “He landed in this country alone and unable to speak English. With a lot of grit and determination – and the help of some remarkable organisations in Delaware – my dad became an outstanding citizen, and he continues to give back to the country that he feels blessed him in so many ways. MacKenzie and I are honored to be able to help today’s Dreamers by funding these scholarships.”
Jeff Bezos’ parents founded the Bezos Family Foundation, a philanthropy organisation focused on charitable giving to education.
The Trump administration is phasing out the DACA program, but Congress has been at odds over what should happen to Dreamers set to lose their deportation protection status.
Republicans have insisted that a law codifying DACA would have to include increased funding for border security and a provision to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. Democrats oppose the wall, saying it would require billions of dollars of US taxpayers’ money.
Bezos, who overtook Bill Gates last year to become the world’s richest man, has been openly urging the government to reauthorize the DACA program. Bezos was one of 400 executives who signed an open letter to President Donald Trump in September and one of over 100 executives who signed another earlier this week urging Congress to pass a law to protect Dreamers.
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