Jeff Bezos recently donated $33 million to TheDream.US, an organization that says it provides up to 4,000 “dreamers” tuition for higher education programs. These immigrants, who arrived in the U.S. as young children and had no say in where they would eventually grow up, are currently in legal limbo due to the ongoing debate over the renewal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Most of these young adults, despite any protections granted by DACA, are ineligible for financial aid or in-state college tuition.
As far as the dollar amount goes, this sum is a relative pittance for Bezos, whose fortune derived from Amazon’s growth has reached a point at which some observers are calling him the wealthiest person of all time. Of course, Bezos has his critics, as many allege his reported $105 billion net worth is in part due to the conditions many workers find themselves while working in Amazon’s “fulfillment centers,” or warehouses, across the U.S.
But according to TheDream.US, Bezos’s largess is a huge shot in the arm, as it is enough to fund 1,000 scholarships for dreamers across the U.S. The program offers these students an average of $33,000 in tuition and other assistance for four years at 70 colleges and universities across 15 states.
What is more important about Bezos’s donation is the signal that it sends to the White House and congressional leaders, who as of press time have been at an impasse in deciding if and how to extend DACA. Talk over the program’s extension is more focused on last week’s “s—hole” controversy and whether memories of the encounter at the White House had “evolved.”
Meanwhile, Bezos was one of many dozens of top CEOs who recently signed a letter urging Congress to ensure DACA is extended before March 5, when the program expires. While potential upheaval in some of their employees’ lives is behind these business leaders’ sentiment, economics also plays a role. “If Congress fails to act our economy could lose $215 billion in GDP,” the letter concludes.
Supporters of TheDream.US reads like a who’s who of Corporate America, with a roster that includes The Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, The Coca-Cola Foundation and The PepsiCo Foundation.
In addition to the almost $50 million in scholarship assistance the program has funded to date, TheDream.US also bills itself as a leading advocacy group for dreamers. The group works with other organizations to lobby policymakers on the plight of dreamers, has partnered with the Department of Education to develop college resource guides for these students and is striving to boost access to college for these young Americans.
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