NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Immigration reform may be at an intractable standstill but former Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham is creating an organization to do what the federal government has been unable to do: help make it possible for young, undocumented immigrants to go to college, and by extension, enter the workforce.
Graham, currently CEO of Graham Holdings (GHC), which includes the Kaplan testing empire, announced the creation of TheDream.US at a gathering in Washington on Tuesday joined by former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and Henry Munoz, a Democratic Party activist.
TheDream.US plans to provide college scholarships for 2,000 young people from low-income families of undocumented immigrants, a population barred from applying for federal aid to fund a college education. While immigration reform has largely been trumpeted by Deomcrats, Graham secured the support of high-profile Republicans including the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, the perennial presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, U.S. Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Republican support for the initiative, Gutierrez said, begins with the position that immigrant children should be able to go to college, though the fact that the project doesn't involve government funds is also a selling point.
"This is the part of the immigration puzzle that most people agree on," Gutierrez, who served in George W. Bush's administration from 2005 to 2009, said in a phone interview from Washington. "This is in the great American tradition of private citizens helping these kids."
At present, $25 million has been raised by Graham, who sold The Post in October to Amazon (AMZN), along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and handful of other philanthropies and individuals, including the journalist Michael Kinsley.
Of course, the goal is to raise a lot more money. There are roughly 2 million undocumented young people looking to enter college who are ineligible because of current immigration laws to receive federal financial aid.
The name TheDream.US is a product of the 2010 DREAMer march in Washington that led to movements across the country to stop the deportation of children brought to the U.S. as minors. The Dream movements were credited with Barack Obama's strong showing among Latinos in the 2012 election, and the passage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act that stopped deporting some undocumented young people while providing for a two-year reprieve.
The hope, Gutierrez said, is that TheDream.US can demonstrate the bi-partisan support for immigration reform.
"People were surprised to see Grover and people will be surprised by the names that will keep getting added to the list," Gutierrez said. "The irony is that most Republicans I speak to outside of Washington want this to happen, and it's just that Congress hasn't moved yet."
Those receiving scholarships are required to attend one of 12 college and universities that agreed to partner with Graham's TheDream US. Those schools include the Borough of Manhattan Community College, Miami Dade College in Florida; Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C.; El Paso Community College, University of Texas, El Paso; Long Beach City College and California State University, Long Beach.
-- By Leon Lazaroff in New York
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