Feb 19, 2016 ยท 2 minutes

Immigration is one of the few issues which both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates seem to acknowledge is hugely important.

As Pando’s resident immigrant, that fact is both encouraging and terrifying, given the heated rhetoric. It’s funny how many right wingers I’ve heard rant about immigrants taking away American jobs only to have them backpedal like the proverbial motherfuckers once I point out they’re talking about me.

As I write this, both the (let’s say) Republican and (let’s say) Democratic frontrunners are thrashing out their immigration policies on Twitter. Trump and his dipshit supporters are still trying to float their “the Vatican has walls too!” zinger, trusting that no Trump voters has ever been to the Holy See and holy seen how easy it is to pass through the giant gates built into those same walls. Clinton meantime just scored a fun comeback against Sanders who snarked her over her plans to repeal the (utterly toxic) three and 10 year ban for returning illegal immigrants…

Against this backdrop comes Jose Vargas’ announcement that he’s raising $1m for his #EmergingUS news and information site, tackling the issue of immigration head on. Vargas, you may recall, appeared at Pandoland last year to talk about his experiences as an undocumented American. The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist famously “came out” as undocumented (his preferred term for an immigrant who is in the US illegally) in the New York Times, sparking a debate about immigrants as “productive members of society” that continues today.

EmergingUS was previously incubated within the LA Times but is now being spun off after the Times executive who had championed it was fired last year. Vargas says he needs to raise $1m to launch the site and is raising the funds via journalistic crowdfunding site Beacon. Really, though, he only needs to raise $500k from crowd backers as Beacon has promised to match every donation, up to $500k. Three days into the campaign the total already stands at $62,140.

Still, I suspect it’ll be a tough slog to get to the $500k. Unlike crowdfunding campaigns for hipster card games and smart watches and tricked-out coolers, immigration isn’t something that coastal hipsters want to throw their cash at. The nature of being an undocumented American means one’s earning power is significantly lower than other Americans. That doesn’t leave a lot of spare cash to support projects like EmergingUS, no matter how important and timely.

Hopefully, tech founders and investors will prove the exception to the apathy rule. After all, our industry is driven by immigrants -- whether in the form of founders like Jerry Yang and Andy Grove, or the people who drive our Ubers or deliver our GrubHub meals. Tech folks talk a good game on immigration, and now Vargas is giving them something concrete they can do to help.

You’ll find the EmergingUS campaign page here. And here’s Jose Vargas’ Pandoland interview...