Today we’re thrilled to announce the DREAMer engineers and product designers who will be joining our Hackathon on November 20th & November 21st. Hundreds of applicants took the time to apply, and we were extremely impressed with the breadth of their experience, their perseverance in the face of incredible odds, and the passion they have for immigration reform and for tech. We're pleased to be inviting 20 DREAMers to code with some of the top engineers and designers in the industry today.
It’s well past time that we fix our broken immigration system – which isn’t working for American families in a modern global economy. Millions of DREAMers and their families with stories just like those participating in the Hackathon wait in limbo, unable to contribute fully to their communities and having to live in constant uncertainty – and we can’t wait any longer.
The DREAMers will form teams with experienced mentors during the Hackathon and work together to build out prototypes of products to aid the immigration reform movement. Their creations will help spread the word: Americans want immigration reform now.
Some of the top product innovators of our time will be on hand to provide guidance on projects, including Mark Zuckerberg, Drew Houston, Reid Hoffman, and Andrew Mason.
Our DREAMers are each an embodiment of the pressing need for meaningful immigration reform. They come from all over the country and a variety of backgrounds, but are united by the unique challenges facing undocumented families across America. Too many of our participants have gone years without seeing a family member or have been turned down for scholarships to college based solely on their undocumented status, but their courage has spurred them to continue pursuing their dreams.
We're excited to see what our DREAMers and mentors produce during the Hackathon. Teams will begin strategizing together in the next few weeks, with their work culminating in 24 straight hours of coding at LinkedIn HQ.
FWD.us is proud to celebrate the talents and courageous perseverance of the following DREAMers for our DREAMer Hackathon:
LUIS AGUILAR, 25, Falls Church, VA Luis immigrated to the United States at the age of 9 from Mexico. He attended the Northern Virginia Community College, but due to high costs of out-of-state tuition, Luis was forced to withdraw from school. He currently teaches himself how to code from Internet classes. He is an advocate for immigration reform as an active member of the Dreamers of Virginia student organization. To Luis, immigration reform means justice and dignity for the 11 million aspiring Americans in the United States and the opportunity to see his father, who was deported from the United States when Luis was 15, and whom he hasn’t seen since.
GERARDO ALVARADO, 25, Milwaukee, WI Gerardo is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he is majoring in Information Technology Management. He plans to pursue a career in the technology field as well as to organize within the immigrant community. Gerardo currently organizes the immigrant community in Wisconsin with Voces de la Frontera and Youth Empowered in the Struggle. To Gerardo, immigration reform means that he will be able to get a job and take care of his family, especially his mother.
ISABEL BAHENA, 23, San Leandro, CA Isabel came to the United States ten years ago from Mexico. Even though Isabel was pushed back a year during middle school because of her recent arrival to the United States, she excelled during her high school years. Isabel was the first member of her family to graduate from college. After having to turn down the opportunity for college scholarships due to her status, Isabel stayed close to home to afford college where she graduated from California State University East Bay and obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. To Isabel, immigration reform means the opportunity finally to become visible in this country.
SARAHI ESPINOZA, 23, East Palo Alto, CA Sarahi Espinoza had to stop attending school in order to care for her father, who was ill with cancer. She now attends Cañada College and created her own website, Sarahi.tv, where she hopes to inspire other young people to go back to college regardless of their circumstances. When her web developer stopped replying to assist her, Sarahi took matters into her own hands and taught herself how to code. She hopes immigration reform will mean she can be reunited with her mother, who returned to Mexico to petition into the U.S. through the legal system and has been stuck in limbo for 8 years.
ROLY FENTANTES, 25, New York, NY Roly came to the United States at age six. Growing up, he was unaware of his undocumented status until he attempted to get a driver’s license. He majored in Computer Science during his college years; now that he has received his DACA, he is working for Poptip, a start up in New York City that wanted to hire him 15 months prior but could not due to his undocumented status. For Roly, immigration reform means that the millions who are already here – and capable of working and contributing to this country – can do so without worry.
ERICK GARCIA, 27, Mesa, AZ Erick Garcia came to the United States at the age of 11 from Veracruz, Mexico. He has two sisters who are both U.S. Citizens. He earned a full scholarship to Arizona State University, and then lost it due to Arizona’s immigration laws and had to take a year off of college. After finding another private scholarship, he persevered and graduated from ASU in 2011. He is a digital organizer for immigration reform through the DRM Action Coalition and Presente.org. To Erick, immigration reform means mean peace and tranquility, as human beings all have the right to search for a better life for their families.
JAY HU, 23, New York, NY Jay immigrated to the United States from China. He is a graduate of Queens College in Queens, New York. After receiving his DACA, Jay now is able to work with Hub City Media as an Implementation Specialist. In his free time, Jay likes to work on development projects. To Jay, immigration reform means an opportunity not to have to worry about his future in the United States, which would allow him to focus more intently on his career and become a better developer.
RAHUL KAPADIA, 23, Santa Barbara, CA Rahul is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara, where he studied computer science. Rahul has been programming for five years and is currently working for a startup in Santa Barbara. To Rahul, immigration reform is important in helping ease the barriers to higher education that he and other DREAMers encounter, which will make it possible for undocumented immigrants to make positive impacts in our economy and country.
HENRY LOPEZ, 19, Falls Church, VA Henry arrived in the United States from Guatemala at the age of four. He is currently a freshman at George Mason University studying Computer Science. He was first exposed to computers through CodeNow, which is a program that introduces the basics of computer programming to minority students in the Washington, D.C. area. Beyond his academic achievements, he advocates for immigration reform as an active member of the Dreamers of Virginia student organization. To Henry, immigration reform means giving the 11 million aspiring Americans in the United States the opportunity to prove that they are hard-working citizens.
ROCIO LOPEZ, 24, Mountain View, CA Rocio, a design thinker, is a graduate of Columbia University. After receiving her DACA, Rocio successfully secured a position at Cisco. Rocio believes that immigration is a complex challenge that needs to be addressed together with people of multidisciplinary fields to influence the stakeholders who can pass comprehensive immigration reform. She hopes that immigration reform will mean a permanent solution to DREAMers like herself to contribute fully to the United States.
CELSO MIRELES, 26, Phoenix, AZ Celso currently works as a leading online strategist for United We Dream – the largest national immigrant-youth led organization – which aims to address the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth. Celso is a multi-faceted digital organizer with graphic design and video production skills. To Celso, immigration reform will mean that his father will be able to get a job and be with his family rather than working two states away.
JUSTINO MORA, 24, Los Angeles, CA Justino fled from his abusive father to the United States with his mother and two siblings when he was eleven years old. He is currently studying Computer Science and Political Science at UCLA and works as an independent contractor to help fund his college education. Besides his academic achievements, he is an activist and organizer in the Los Angeles area with CHIRLA and the CA Dream Network. To Justino, immigration reform means hope and the much-needed opportunity for undocumented members of his family and community to obtain the respect they deserve, shed their fear, and empower themselves to put an end to the oppression and humiliation they face at work.
ERICK ORELLANA, 24, Patchogue, NY Erick immigrated to the United States from Ecuador at the age of three. From a young age, Erick has had a passion for technology and computers, which furthered his curiosity in the worlds of software engineering, hardware engineering, digital art, digital photography, and electronic production. To Erick, immigration reform means being able to proclaim that he is American and that he has fought for the privilege to be able to prove it.
EDSON SIERRA, 20, Charlotte, NC Edson came to the United States 11 years ago with his mother. He is a sophomore studying computer science at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. To help pay for college, Edson has worked in landscaping, as a dishwasher, and a busboy. His passion for computers started at the age of twelve when his mother bough him an old PC. He is looking forward to the Hackathon, as it would help him promote some of his ideals of empowering low-income students to pursue education through technology. To Edson, immigration reform means the opportunity to pursue his dreams of attending graduate school and helping students in similar situations.
KENT TAM, 24, Los Angeles, CA Kent is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, where he majored in Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences. Due to his inability to acquire a job, Kent did freelance work and picked up HTML/CSS in his free time. Kent believes that technology is not discriminatory, as he could be judged based on his work produced instead of his immigration status. To Kent, immigration reform means that he will be able to reunite with his mother and father, who he hasn’t seen for ten years.
DAYANA TORRES, 19, Fairfax, VA Dayana is currently an honors student at George Mason University where she is majoring in Computer Science; she speaks 4 languages. Dayana became an immigration reform advocate when she realized she could not accept any of the 5 full-ride college scholarships she was offered, as she did not have a social security number. She currently serves as the President of Dreamers of Virginia, where she organizes undocumented youth around access to education and immigration reform.
EDGAR TORRES, 26, Oceanside, CA Edgar arrived in the United States as a small child, and calls the U.S. his home. He is a graduate student in the Computer Science Department at the San Diego State University, and is currently interning as a software engineer. To Edgar, immigration reforms means that the effort he put into his education will be worthwhile, and that his family will be able to stay together. He will be participating with his brother, Jorge Torres.
JORGE TORRES, 27, Oceanside, CA Jorge Torres was born in Mexico and moved to the United States as a child with his family. He excelled academically in high school where he participated in the IB program. After working to help his family pay the bills when his father was denied a work permit, Jorge focused on school and is now a senior majoring in Computer Science at Cal State University - San Marcos. To Jorge, immigration reform means that dreams can become a reality. He will be participating in the Hackathon with his brother, Edgar Torres.
CARLOS VARGAS, 28, New York, NY Carlos came to the United States from Mexico at the age of five when his father passed away and his mother wanted to provide him with a promising future. In order to help care for his family, he began to work as a busboy and waiter at the age of 13. Carlos anticipates graduating college with a Bachelors of Science in Economics. He is an organizer in his community and manages the website and social media network for DRM Action Coalition, an organization that advocates for immigration reform. To Carlos, immigration reform means an opportunity to make America a better and stronger country.
You don't have to be at LinkedIn HQ to follow the developments at the Hackathon. We'll be providing real-time updates on social media and livestreaming the event from inside the hackspace at LinkedIn HQ. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to make sure you stay up-to-date.
And please join us in supporting meaningful immigration reform: we need to make sure that members of Congress hear from people like you that the time is now for reform. For these 20 DREAMers – and the millions of others like them – we simply can’t afford to wait any longer.