A Hackathon Family Connection

Posted by on November 14, 2013.

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Our upcoming Hackathon will bring a diverse group of engineers and product designers to Silicon Valley in order to collaborate creating tools to aid the fight for immigration reform. Despite coming from different backgrounds and from all over the country, the DREAMers we've invited have experienced similar personal and professional obstacles as a result of our dysfunctional immigration system. Two of the DREAMer Hackathon participants share an extra special bond: they are brothers.

Jorge and Edgar Torres were born in Mexico and arrived to the United States as small children. Both are now Computer Science students at San Diego-area universities.

We caught up with the brothers to ask them a few questions ahead of next week's Hackathon. Read on to learn more about their goals for the event and why immigration reform is a critical issue for them.

FWD.us: Why is taking action on immigration reform important to you both?

Edgar: Besides keeping families together, I see immigration reform as opportunities. Action on immigration reform is important, but it is more than just a piece of legislation. What use would an opportunity be if I wasn't prepared to take advantage of it? I support immigration reform because I believe it can lead us to something much greater.

Jorge: Immigration reform is an issue that our family has always thought about. For the past twenty years, my brother and I always wondered if this would be our last school year here in the United States, or our last semester, or our last day. We both have worked hard to excel in our academics. Our family always pushing us to go to greater heights, but there was always that ceiling above us. During those six years of immigration limbo our definition of patience and conviction changed. When our parents would tell us to be patient or that the system would work itself out, the only thing we heard was it will be an eternity before we see our hard work yield anything.

Working hard towards something and not knowing if we would ever have anything to show for it is like placing a bet. With DACA, we were able to finally able to see what a winning bet felt like. I am done betting on a future that might be. I want to start placing an investment in a future I can make for myself. Immigration reform can and will bring incredible resources, once untapped, to the forefront of this country.

FWD.us: What have been some challenges you've each faced because of our broken immigration system?

Jorge: In 2005 our immigration status changed drastically. We went from being under the radar, virtually invisible since 1993, to being on the brink of deportation at any given notice for the next six years. It was during those six years we were placed in a state of limbo. My father was unable to work, and being the main provider for our family, we had to go through a difficult financial time trying to make ends meet.

Even though we were under some pretty hard times our family knew that no matter what school had to continue. It was a psychological battle to keep animated about going to school, and to keep thinking that everything will be alright as long as we continued to move forward together with no drivers license, no reliable source of income, and no viable immigration solutions in sight. The challenges we faced definitely set us back, and in some small ways defeated each of us, but together we were able to move forward. After twenty years of trying our family can now see the future we've collectively worked for on the horizon.

Edgar: I could say the sense of insecurity about ones future, the feeling of not fitting in, or the frustration, but that would be naming challenges everyone faces. The biggest challenge was the problem itself, it was not letting immigration be an excuse to give up.

FWD.us: How do you feel about participating in the Hackathon together, as brothers?

Jorge: It is an honor to be able to participate in this Hackathon. We both have been patient and working hard in order to be able to take advantage of opportunities when they come up, and we feel like this event might be what we have been waiting and preparing for.

Me and my brother had a slight academic rivalry going on when we were younger, but as we grew older we realized that our expertise and abilities different from one another. Like all brothers, we do tend to argue, and be a bit headstrong about our own ways of doing things. During these past few years I think we were able to understand one another better, and this helped us to work closer with one another. We worked together or helped each other out with various programs, and have helped each other with programming concepts and ideas by using our strengths.

Due to school and work schedules conflicting we haven't worked much with each other in the past months, but we share tidbits of information once in a while. This Hackathon would be a good measure to use to see how much each of us has learned in the last several months. To be able to share this experience with my brother will definitely makes me feel more confident in participating in the event.

Edgar: I am happy for my brother, we both understand that this is a very great experience. But during the hackathon, I think we will be more like fellow engineers. We both know why we are going and what we are there to do. I hope that in the middle of all the creative process, all the energy, all the work the lines between brothers is blurred and we realize that we are all there for the same reason, that our goal is the same. That's what a Hackathon is, bringing together different types of people to build a single project.

FWD.us: What is the biggest strength you each bring to the Hackathon?

Jorge: The only thing that rivals my time spent on programming is probably my time spent on my passion for art. I feel like I have a proficiency in design that could be put to use if there is a need for editing, manipulating, or creating a look for whatever we develop. Creativity has been one of my stronger points.

Edgar: I am motivated and ready to work, but my biggest strength is making my work environment a little less stressful. I like to joke with people, get to know them. It makes the whole seeing each other everyday and having to communicate with each other a whole a lot easier.

FWD.us: What are you most looking forward to when it comes to the Hackathon? Any ideas on what you'd like to achieve?

Edgar: Like any engineer would say, I look forward to making a product that works as intended. I chose computer science for the ability to use technology to build things that could change the way we live our lives. I look forward to learning new things and have a chance to challenge myself. I hope to demonstrate the talent we offer and that given the chance we have to ability to produce some amazing things.

Jorge: The one thing I definitely look forward to is meeting the rest of the participants. The most valuable resource on this planet is manpower. People are what drives everything in this world, and the knowledge they carry with them to accomplish that is just as valuable. I'm more interested in meeting people and sharing their ways of thought because they are the ones with the ideas that otherwise wouldn't have crossed your mind. I hope to take full advantage of this experience and opportunity to absorb and learn as much as I can from the other participants.

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