U.S. News

Former Washington Post publisher Donald Graham behind Dreamer lobbying effort

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Graham, the chairman of the board of Graham Holdings Company GHC.N and former publisher of The Washington Post, personally retained two lobbyists earlier this year to advocate on behalf of retaining the program that has allowed immigrant children to remain legally in the country.

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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced the end of the Obama-era program that protects immigrants known as Dreamers, brought illegally into the United States as children, from deportation. Implementation will be delayed until March, giving the U.S. Congress six months to decide the fate of almost 800,000 young people.

Graham joins a large group of business executives, including many from Silicon Valley and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who support legislation to allow these immigrants to stay.

Graham said he was motivated by his work as a cofounder of the scholarship program TheDream.Us which provides college scholarships to Dreamers.

“I am doing this because I am one of three cofounders of the scholarship fund and running that fund has brought me into contact with some amazing students,” Graham said. “All they want is a chance, and I hope we’ll give them that.”

Graham said he believes Congress could act.

“I’m from Washington so I’m not a blind optimist, but I think one senses a desire in Congress to do something and I hope that will be the case,” he said.

It is unusual for private citizens to retain their own lobbyists without a personal financial stake in the issue. Most lobbyists are contracted by companies or associations that represent groups with shared interests.

And while business has been vocal on the issue of immigration, only a small handful listed the program for immigrant children, called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), as an issue which they lobbied Congress or the administration on this year.

Some businesses are making their support of DACA known through other means. Facebook's FB.O Mark Zuckerberg is driving a lobbying effort by Fwd.Us which supports immigration changes including renewing DACA.

Microsoft MSFT.O President Brad Smith said Congress should prioritize passing a DACA renewal over tax reform, a top priority for most business.

The disclosed lobbying effort around DACA has been almost entirely led by universities and advocacy groups, like the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, according to disclosures.

Graham paid Covington & Burling LLP $70,000 in the first six months of the year to lobby exclusively on DACA.

Only one company, Cummins Inc. CMI.N, has disclosed lobbying regarding DACA. Their in-house lobbyists held discussions with members of Congress on a number of issues, including immigration.

“In order to recruit and retain top global talent we need fair and flexible immigration laws,” said a spokesman for Cummins, Jon Mills. “In addition, Congress hasn’t done a real update to America’s immigration system since 1986 and if done right, there could be many benefits for the United States.”

The company, which makes engines and power generators, has been vocal publicly on the issue as well. Their company’s CEO Tom Linebarger, called on Congress to quickly pass a replacement program.

Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Chris Sanders