Jeff Bezos, the Amazon and Blue Origin founder and the wealthiest person in the world, is wading into the issue of immigration through his philanthropy.
On Friday, Bezos and his wife, author MacKenzie Bezos, donated $33 million to TheDream.US, an organization that funds scholarships for immigrants known as Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The donation is the largest in the organization’s history and will fund 1,000 college scholarships.
“My dad came to the U.S. when he was 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan,” Bezos said in a release from TheDream.US. “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’ father, Mike Bezos, immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba. Mike and his wife Jackie Bezos were among the early donors to TheDream.US.
The donation comes as tensions over protections for Dreamers are rising in Washington, D.C. — in September, President Trump unveiled a plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, which gives Dreamers limited legal status.
The program is set to end in March and lawmakers are struggling to settle on an immigration deal that will codify the protections permanently, despite broad support for the program. The tech industry has been an outspoken supporter of DACA and the young immigrants it protects. Some Washington state tech companies, including Amazon, are even backing a lawsuit against Trump’s ending of the program.
The donation is a rare moment of both public philanthropy and advocacy from Bezos, who generally keeps a low profile. Bezos and Amazon have historically faced criticism from Seattle, the company’s hometown, for their lack of involvement in civic and philanthropic efforts.
Amazon has become more engaged in the past few years, donating a building and funds to homeless shelter Mary’s Place, for example, and Bezos has thrown weight behind philanthropic efforts like the Bezos Family Foundation’s $60 million-plus in donations to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, has also drawn the ire of President Trump several times since he took office. The President has aimed several Tweet storms at the “Amazon Washington Post,” accusing Bezos of using the Post as a political tool.