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A Hackathon for Immigration Reform

A Hackathon for Immigration Reform

Founded by Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman and Mark Zukerberg

Image: fwd

A 'hackathon' with a difference; many of the coders are immigrants with no papers

The LinkedIn headquarters in California have held a 24-hour 'hackathon' where student coders join together to build new products and programs from scratch, in a short amount of time.

The scene is not uncommon in Silicon Valley – every tech company there has hosted at least one internal 'hackathon' in its time. (LinkedIn, actually has a company-wide one every month.)

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But this particular event is different; many of the coders are immigrants with no papers, and the projects they are working on could change their lives - it brought together 20 to 25 undocumented people to join Silicon Valley tech veterans, in a quest to further immigration reform.

The teams created projects like websites and apps, some meant to educate citizens about immigration issues, others designed to connect constituents with the congressional leaders who represent them. (A few actually do both.)

One team built an iOS app called 'Forward Now' that identifies and features influential people in support of immigration reform. App users can then view quotes or ideas from their favourite influencers, including Oprah and singer Shakira, and choose to join them in declaring their commitment to reform.

Users could then use the app to send a tweet or update a Facebook status, to read, "I go FWD with Oprah", for example.

Another group built a website called 'Push4Reform', which aggregates the political positions on immigration reform of all members of Congress. Users can see where their own representatives stand and use the site to share their own ideas or connect with political leaders.

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The concept was orchestrated by FWD.us, an organisation that started in January to inspire the tech community to connect with the goings-on in Washington, D.C.

The founding team is made up of tech royalty, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, and Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zukerberg – who, incidentally, is the former college roommate of Joe Green, president and cofounder of FWD.us.

Immigration reform is largely viewed as a political issue, but that doesn't mean tech can't play a part. Green believes technology can help bridge the gap that comes when politics get in the way of policy. And one reason the tech community is perfect for promoting immigration reform? Entrepreneurs are used to doing things people tell them are impossible, Green said. "Entrepreneurs don't lose hope."

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