Amazon CEO to donate $33M to 'dreamers' scholarship fund

Jeff Bezos is giving college money to immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, while politicians contentiously debate their status.

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers
2 min read
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Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, shown here at a 2017 Oscar party, are donating $33 million to a college scholarship fund for "dreamers."

David Livingston / Getty Images

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stepped a bit deeper into politics Friday by announcing that he and his wife are donating $33 million to a scholarship fund for "dreamers," or immigrants brought into the US illegally as children.

Bezos -- the wealthiest person in the world -- and his wife, MacKenzie, are donating the money to TheDream.US scholarship program. The grant, the biggest since the organization's 2014 launch, will go to 1,000 high school graduates with DACA status.

Bezos, who also founded Blue Origin and owns The Washington Post, reflected on his father's immigrant story in a statement announcing the donation as his way of giving back.

"My dad came to the US when he was 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan," he said. "He landed in this country alone and unable to speak English. With a lot of grit and determination -- and the help of some remarkable organizations 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."

TheDream.US partners with more than 70 low-cost colleges in 15 states. Its recipients get at total of $33,000 in scholarship aid over four years to cover the costs of tuition, fees and books, the organization said. Almost 3,000 Dreamers are currently enrolled under the program.

The Trump administration in September rescinded DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era program that allows some undocumented immigrants to get a work permit and relief from deportation.

DACA is set to officially end on March 5, but on Tuesday, a federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the decision to end the program, which could affect as many as 800,000 immigrants in the program, nicknamed "dreamers."

A group of tech CEOs, including Bezos, on Wednesday signed a letter urging Congress to pass legislation by the end of this week extending DACA.  But talks on Capitol Hill seem to have broken down after the White House and some GOP leaders rejected a deal from a bipartisan Senate group on Thursday. That was the same day Trump reportedly used vulgar language in a meeting in reference to some immigrants.

For years, the tech community has pushed for immigration-friendly policies. Traditionally, its biggest concern has been for policies supporting immigration of skilled workers, people that American tech companies say they need to keep their competitive edge.

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