Bezos Jumps Into Immigration Fight With Gift for Scholarships

Posted January 12, 2018 1:21 p.m. EST

SEATTLE — Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, on Friday injected himself into one of the most contentious political debates in the United States, announcing that he and his wife had donated $33 million to a college scholarship program geared toward young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, gave the money to the nonprofit Dream.US. The group said the donation, the largest in its history, would finance scholarships for 1,000 high school graduates who have been allowed to stay in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

The roughly 800,000 so-called Dreamers affected by the program face an uncertain future after President Donald Trump said last year that he planned to end the protections.

Uncertainty continued to swirl around the program this week, with a federal judge ruling that the Trump administration must maintain it as a legal fight over the president’s decision proceeds and Trump sending mixed signals about his willingness to strike a deal with Congress that would offer the immigrants a path to citizenship.

Trump has regularly criticized Bezos, both for his role at Amazon and for his ownership of The Washington Post, which he bought in 2013. Trump has accused Amazon of sidestepping taxes and The Post of covering him unfairly.

Don Graham, publisher of The Post when Bezos bought the paper, is a founder of Dream.US.

Bezos said in a statement that the donation was inspired by the example of his father, Miguel, who came to the United States from Cuba in the early 1960s as part of a wave of thousands of unaccompanied minors.

“My dad came to the U.S. when he was 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan,” Bezos said in the statement. “He landed in this country alone and unable to speak English. With a lot of grit and determination, and the help of some remarkable organizations in Delaware, my dad became an outstanding citizen, and he continues to give back to the country that he feels blessed him in so many ways. MacKenzie and I are honored to be able to help today’s Dreamers by funding these scholarships.”

Bezos is not the first wealthy technology executive to donate to the Dream.US. Two years ago, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, gave the group $5 million.