Jeff Hawkins is an engineer, entrepreneur, scientist, inventor and author. He is a founder of three technology companies, Palm, Handspring, and Numenta as well as the non-profit Redwood Neuroscience Institute. He has been a key supporter of Immigrants Rising since 2011.
How did you become involved in supporting undocumented students?
I first became aware of the plight of undocumented students 13 years ago via my daughter’s friend in high school, who was undocumented. Through her I learned about the incredibly difficult challenges undocumented young people face. As I researched what could be done to help undocumented young people, I came across E4FC and have been a supporter ever since.
In the past, the United States has done some terrible and embarrassing things to our people, for example Jim Crow laws, the Chinese exclusion act, and the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during WWII.
I believe we are now doing something equally bad, equally embarrassing, to young undocumented immigrants who were brought to our country by others and raised as Americans. We are forcing them into a type of banishment.
Can you share a particular memory or story about our organization?
The thing that strikes me most is when I talk to individual students. Those are really warming moments. I just love smart, young people. When you meet them and you know how many obstacles they had to overcome just to get to high school, and then to college, and then to graduate from college.
I can think of numerous students and sometimes they bring their parents to meet with me. They are so nice and intelligent. They put up with so much crap, and yet they are so normal. Those are my favorite memories, the one-on-one interactions.
Do you have a message for our organization and community?
I have been asked why technology people like myself support undocumented young people. As a tech entrepreneur, I value intellect, initiative, and hard work. I see in undocumented youth the same qualities that are valued in the technology world. I also understand that the personal success of entrepreneurs like me is largely because we have had the freedom to work, the freedom to travel, the freedom to pursue whatever dreams we have. Undocumented young people are like us but are being denied those freedoms.
I am supporting E4FC because I want to help undocumented young people get an education, launch new projects, pursue their dreams and make this country a better place for all of us.