January 12, 2018; Politico
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and presently the world’s richest man, has donated $33 million to TheDream.US to support scholarships for the undocumented students of illegal immigrants.
These students, or “dreamers,” have been under attack in President Trump’s push to repeal Obama-era protections and are currently not eligible for federal scholarships. The donation will fund 1,000 scholarships that provide students $33,000 in aid over four years at partner colleges. It will significantly expand TheDream.US’s current reach, which, before this donation, reportedly funded 2,850 scholarships. The nonprofit was cofounded in 2014 by Don Graham shortly after he sold the Washington Post to Bezos in 2013.
The donation is one of Bezos’ largest public donations in a year where the billionaire has started to demonstrate the direction of his philanthropy. In mid-2017, Bezos asked for suggestions, via his Twitter account, on where he should donate, stating that his burgeoning philanthropic strategy was to address issues in the “here and now” at the “intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.” While still in its early stages, his philanthropic activity seems to be aligning well: funding Reporters without Borders as a way to immediately protect the free press, and St. Mary’s Center, which provides services for homeless women and children. Some have even—somewhat jokingly—suggested that Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post, a struggling business in a struggling industry, was a quasi-philanthropic move to support journalistic freedoms.
This donation to Dream.US certainly fits the bill of urgent need. Should Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) be phased out following current congressional negotiations, nearly 700,000 students could face deportation as early as March of this year.
The issue hits close to home for Bezos, whose father is a Cuban immigrant. Speaking of his father as he discussed this donation, Bezos 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.”
And while the personal connection is clearly strong, Bezos—and his fellow tech titans, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s Tim Cook—have a strong business interest in DACA remaining in place. They, along with more than 100 corporate leaders, have written a letter pressing Congress to reject the repeal of DACA on grounds that it would result in significant damage to US competitiveness.
The letter makes an economic, not a moral, argument: “Failure to act in time will lead to businesses losing valuable talent, cause disruptions in the workforce, and will result in significant costs. Studies by economists across the ideological spectrum have also determined that if Congress fails to act our economy could lose $215 billion in GDP.”
Regardless of whether Bezos is economically or personally motivated, he’s clearly unafraid of putting his economic might and voice behind his political and social beliefs. We should expect to see more philanthropic headlines of this nature from him in the future.—Danielle Holly