Facebook's Zuckerberg hosting a hackathon for immigrant 'Dreamers'

In the latest phase of a campaign to change U.S. immigration laws, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and some other prominent tech figures are hosting a hackathon next month for young “Dreamers” – undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

The event, to be held Nov. 20-21 at the LinkedIn campus in Mountain View, will give tech-savvy young immigrants a chance to write code alongside more experienced engineers and product designers, according to FWD.us, the advocacy group that Zuckerberg launched earlier this year.

“Some of the top product innovators of our time” – including Zuckerberg, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, DropBox founder Drew Houston and Groupon’s Andrew Mason – “will be working side-by-side with DREAMers to advise them throughout the hackathon,” says a notice on the FWD.us website, which encourages would-be participants to submit an application by Oct. 30.

Hackathons, of course, are a time-honored Silicon Valley strategy for tackling problems and finding solutions — or at least calling attention to an issue.  Facebook in particular has long celebrated the tradition of holding all-night coding sessions to resolve nagging problems or create new apps.

Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley leaders have been pushing for changes in immigration laws that would, among other things, make it easier for skilled engineers and scientists from other countries to get visas to work or start companies here in the United States. But their campaign has run into some controversy and the push for new legislation stalled in Congress earlier this year.

Whether or not the hackathon will produce a new computer program that solves Congressional gridlock is unclear. But according to the FWD.us site, “Each team will create a project or application that could help supporters share stories, contact members of Congress or show family and friends why they want meaningful immigration reform.”

(Photo of “hack” logo on lightpost at Facebook headquarters by Brandon Bailey)

Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (350 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.