Local DREAMers to take part in Fwd.us hackathon

Several Bay Area DREAMers are among the 20 who’ve been invited to join a hackathon later this month organized by Fwd.us, the lobbying group launched earlier this year by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley giants.

They’ll work next to some of the region’s top engineers and designers during the event Nov. 20-21 at LinkedIn’s Mountain View headquarters, says Fwd.us founder and president Joe Green.

“It’s well past time that we fix our broken immigration system – which isn’t working for American families in a modern global economy,” Green wrote in a statement posted on the group’s website. “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 and collaborate on prototypes of products to aid the immigration reform movement, Green wrote, with teams starting to strategize in the next few weeks before the hackathon: 24 straight hours of coding. “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,” Green wrote. “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.”

Follow after the jump for bios (verbatim from Fwd.us) of the Bay Area DREAMers invited to the hackathon…

isabel_bahenaISABEL 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_espinozaSARAHI 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.

juan_gonzalesJUAN GONZALES, 21, Berkeley, CA – Juan is a senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Computer Science; he intends on working with Expedia as a Software Engineer after graduation. In previous Hackathons that he’s attended, Juan has built a web app to enable real-time interaction between speakers and their audiences. To Juan, immigration reform will mean that he has a more stable career path and his parents will be able to legalize their status.

rocio_lopezROCIO 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.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.