FWD.us is channeling its powers to come up with tech innovation that spurs Congress to take action on immigration reform.
The political action group, which is backed by dozens of big name techies, has worked with Hackers/Founders to put together a hackathon this week that aims to push their issue forward. And, on Friday, the group will announce the contest winners.
Rather than calling the event a hackathon, FWD.us has dubbed it a "growthathon."
This growthathon uses coding and data mining for innovation, like a hackathon, but then plans to use the outcome for political outreach and action.
"We'll use data and tech to motivate constituents in key districts to contact their representatives and amplify the call for immigration reform this year," the group wrote on its event site.
During the growthathon teams are given tools -- like voter registration files, publicly available APIs and data sets, and ad credits -- to "hack immigration reform." They're encouraged to get as many constituents as possible to contact Congressional representatives in certain target districts.
Launched by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in April 2013, FWD.us' agenda is to get more visas for high-skilled workers in the US. Currently, there's a limited supply of H-1B visas, which are temporary visas for foreign workers in high-skilled jobs. The H-1B visa issue is one of special significance to tech executives who believe their businesses could help improve the economy if given the freedom to employ more skilled foreign workers.
Immigration legislation, penned by Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and seven other senators, passed in the Senate last June. The bill, which would immediately raise the H-1B visa threshold from 85,000 to 110,000 and include a formula for even more visas, has been stymied in the House of Representatives.
FWD.us' supporters includes many Silicon Valley heavy-hitters such as Microsoft's Bill Gates, Kleiner Perkins' John Doerr, Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, Napster co-founder Sean Parker, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and investor Ron Conway.
The wrap party for the growthathon is in San Francisco on Friday and includes prizes like meeting high-level executives such as founder of Khosla Ventures Vinod Khosla, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, and Microsoft's corporate vice president of technology and civic engagement Dan'l Lewin.