FWD.us, the immigration reform non-profit founded by Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman, Mark Zuckerberg, and many other prominent Silicon Valley tech leaders, is in the process of building a bigger presence in Boston, led by new-to-town FWD.us superstar Andi Dankert. Tonight, as a way of introducing the organization to the Boston tech community, FWD.us will be joining with the Boston New Tech Meetup for a one-of-a-kind event.
Starting at 6PM, FWD.us and the New Tech Meetup will be simulcasting the opening ceremony of a special hackathon that is being jointly run by Mark Zuckerberg, Drew Houston, Andrew Mason, and hosted by Reid Hoffman at LinkedIn in California. The DREAMer Hackathon features what FWD.us has dubbed DREAMers, young undocumented engineers and product designers. The DREAMers have been selected from all over the country and are going to be teaming with an impressive list of mentors over the next two days to "build tools to advance our advocacy efforts, creating projects and applications to help supporters share stories, contact members of Congress, and show family and friends why they supporting meaningful immigration reform."
The two day event is meant to draw attention to the organization's goal of overhauling current immigration laws and loosing restrictions on visas as well as the H-1B process for talented tech workers hoping to stay in the US and help build American companies.
Currently, FWD.us is primarily focused on getting legislation passed for immigration reform in Washington, DC. The organization has a strong grassroots campaign pushing reform that has grown from San Francisco to New York, Boston, Chicago, and other areas that are key fighting grounds for immigration reform. Here is a recent television ad from FWD.us:
The event tonight is meant to be a showcase of the engineers and product designers involved in the DREAMer Hackathon and will feature comments from Dropbox founder Houston, Zuckerberg, and Greylock/LinkedIn guru Hoffman. You don't need to be at the Meetup to watch the event simulcast, it can be accessed through the FWD.us website.
However, there will be a special Google Hangout with the Boston meetup as well as the other FWD.us "Watching Parties" in San Antonio, New York, Chicago, etc., that will feature Houston and Groupon's Mason, as well as some other unnamed FWD.us leadership team members (most likely Hoffman and Zuckerberg). The Hangout will present a chance for a Q & A with the FWD.us team and I've been told to expect a suprise or two this evening.
There is currently a waiting list to get into the Boston Meetup taking place at Hack/Reduce, but you should still sign up (in case more spots open) for what should be a memorable event.
As far as FWD.us setting up shop in Boston, I believe that the organizaton should be welcomed with open arms in a city with a massive international student presence and some noted tech talent losses due to complications with visas and the difficulty of obtaining H1Bs.
To get a better picture of some of the implications that immigration reform and a retooling of the visa process could have, check out the piece that Evertrue's Brent Grinna wrote recently on his company's (successful) experience with an H-1B sponsorship.
Dennis Keohane is a staff writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.