Making Government Work

When Immigration Reform Got Stuck in Washington, This Entrepreneur Stepped Up

January 1, 2014
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When Immigration Reform Got Stuck in Washington, This Entrepreneur Stepped Up
Brian Ach/Getty Images
Joe Green is on a bipartisan mission to help immigrants.

Tech entrepreneur Joe Green was Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate and Facebook’s sixth user, but he doesn’t share the political disinterest of some of his Silicon Valley colleagues. Having attended the mostly minority Santa Monica High School where he had a lot of undocumented friends, Green ran for the Santa Monica School Board at age 17. He won on a platform promising a living wage for service industry workers, many of whom were immigrants. In college, he studied community organizing with Marshall Ganz, who’d once worked with Cesar Chavez, and discovered parallels between community organizing and social networking. “Community organizing is all about friendships. And the Internet is all about relationships,” Green recently told Elizabeth Lorente of Fox Latino. “I ended up being someone who cares a lot about politics who also worked in tech.”

A co-founder of the company Causes, which uses social media to spur funding for nonprofits, and NationBuilder, which encourages political organizing, Green is now pressing for immigration reform through his political advocacy group FWD.us. He even got his old buddy Zuckerberg to help fund it. The group generates political support for immigration reform, on both sides of the aisle, and also works with immigrants directly. Recently FWD.us sponsored a hackathon for 20 young undocumented programmers, and afterward continued to work with the contest participants.

As Green told Fox Latino, he sees immigration as quintessentially American: “There’s a lot of stuff that America is not the best at, but when you travel around the world you see that America is pro-immigrant. … We are better than almost anybody else at welcoming people from around the world.”

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