The world's richest man, Jeff Bezos, just donated $33 million to educate Dreamers in honor of his immigrant father

Business Insider | Jan 12, 2018, 11.36PM IST

jeff bezos

Evan Vucci/AP

  • Jeff Bezos donated $33 million to provide college scholarships to illegal immigrants brought to the US as children by their parents, known as 'Dreamers.'
  • Bezos has been vocal in pressuring the Trump administration and Congress to bring back protections to Dreamers.
  • Bezos made the donation in honor of his father, who fled Cuba to the US alone when he was 15, went to college in the US, and lived the American dream, including raising the boy who would found Amazon and become the richest man in the world.

As members of Congress duke it out over if and how they will solve the situation of 800,000 illegal immigrants brought to the US as children - the world's richest man has stepped in with a strong message.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, are donating $33 million to Thedream.us, an organization that helps Dreamers pay for a college education.

The money will fund the education of 1,000 Dreamers, if they have graduated from high school and they are part of the The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA is a program that began under former President Barack Obama that allowed Dreamers to obtain school visas, get jobs, pay taxes, and so on.

But the DACA program didn't solve the underlying problem: Dreamers still live in a legal gray zone. So traditional forms of paying for college, like government grants and students loans, were often unavailable to them.

Bezos made the donation in honor of his father, Mike Bezos, who fled Cuba alone when he was 15. Mike eventually worked his way through the University of Albuquerque and then went on to work at Exxon as a petroleum engineer before meeting Jeff's mom, Jackie, the daughter of a high-level Atomic Energy Commission official.

"My dad came to the U.S. when he was 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan," said 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 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. MacKenzie and I are honored to be able to help today's Dreamers by funding these scholarships."

Bezos' parents founded the Bezos Family Foundation, a philanthropy organization focused on charitable giving to education.

President Donald Trump ended the DACA program and gave Congress until March to pass a law permanently fixing it. But Congress has been deadlocked on the issue, with Republicans insisting that the law would have to include a provision to build a massive wall on the Southern border with Mexico. Democrats oppose the wall and the billions of dollars of US taxpayer money that would be spent on it.

Bezos, who overtook Bill Gates in October to reign as the world's richest man, has been openly urging President Trump to authorize DACA again. He was one of 400 executives who signed an open letter in September to Trump and he was one of over 100 executives who signed another letter earlier this week urging Congress to pass the bill before the deadline.

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