By Edward Rincón
It was indeed news shattering: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos just announced a contribution of $33 million to 1,000 DACA program students to pay for a four-year college education. As you may know, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program participants includes “Dreamers” – the nearly 700,000 immigrants who illegally were brought into the U.S. by their parents when they were young. Many of the Dreamers are gainfully employed in the U.S., pursuing a college degree, own or plan to start a business, or have established strong roots in this country. Indeed, many of the Dreamers have little or no experience with their countries of origin — countries which, in many cases, have records of criminal violence, natural disasters, and poor economies.
Mr. Bezos, also the stepson of a Cuban immigrant, is to be celebrated for making this investment. Unlike other financial investments that this billionaire has made in past years, this one promises to yield significant rewards to the families involved. Indeed, immigrants are responsible for two-thirds of the patents generated by U.S. higher education institutions, and create substantial employment opportunities for U.S. residents. The U.S. economy has benefited significantly from the presence of immigrants, and it makes imminent sense to reward their contributions by investing in their college education.
Which begs the question: Why have other large private corporations remained on the sidelines at a time when immigrants could really use their support? A number of other high technology companies recently advocated for the DACA program participants and the value of immigrant labor – including Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook and others. However, based on the millions in profits that many U.S. companies have earned as a result of Latino and Asian immigrants consumer power, I would think that their voices and financial support would have been more forthcoming.
Why the silence and lack of investment at this critical time?
By contrast, national and local media have given substantial coverage to the many public agencies that are literally falling over their feet to be considered as the ideal location for the next Amazon headquarters. It would indeed be interesting to see if Mr. Bezos, who clearly values immigrants, will add another selection criterion for the new headquarters: immigrant friendly policies. If immigrant-friendly policies were a consideration to Mr. Bezos, it seems clear that many of the competing communities, including Texas, could end up at the tail end of the rankings given their past positions on sanctuary cities, voter suppression, environmental contamination, and poor funding for health and public education. If he so chooses, Mr. Bezos may now be in the position to shape public policy regarding immigrants in the U.S.
To the corporate community, I would suggest that now is the time to raise your voice and emulate Jeff Bezos by making a financial contribution to immigrant-friendly policies and programs. To the many public entities that are competing for the next Amazon headquarters, I wish you well and hope that Mr. Bezos will place some consideration on past immigrant-friendly policies and practices.
And lastly, Mr. Bezos, I hope you are listening to this conversation.