Programmers, Hackers, Activists Hack Together to Stand with Immigrants

Programmers, Hackers, Activists Hack Together to Stand with Immigrants

New Yorkers Spend 24 Hours Hacking for Change at Second Annual Immigrant Heritage Hackathon

NEW YORK, NY — More than 120 people came together at Impact Hub NYC last weekend to hack for change at the second annual Immigrant Heritage Hackathon. Participants spent 24 consecutive hours coming up with new strategies and insights to make New York a more welcoming city for immigrants from all walks of life to live, work and play.

“As an elected official, it’s in my job description to stand with my constituents — all of my constituents. Many New York residents are immigrants, and all of us should do what we can to actively welcome them into our city. I’d like to extend a huge thanks to the hackers and programmers who showed up today to say that they do,” said Councilman Ben Kallos, New York City Council, 5th District.

This year’s event theme was “I Stand With Immigrants” focused on how corporate partners, advocates, web developers, hackers and others can stand together as allies in support of the immigrant community.   This year’s event doubled in size from 2016, bringing in participants from local high schools and the CUNY DREAMers organization to professionals in the tech community. Many participants were immigrants, or the children of immigrants.

The winning submission was “US Welcome,” an augmented reality app created by six high school students that detects images or objects, and then explains them to the user in their native language. For example, if a US Welcome user points their smartphone camera at an MTA ticket machine, the app will explain what the machine is and how to use it — all in the user’s native tongue. Other projects included “Junto,” an SMS program that sends one practice question every day to immigrants studying for their naturalization test so they can study on the go. One team created “Stat EZ,” an app that tracks the progress of work authorization applications and another developed “Immigration Stories,” a storytelling website to help readers get a more personal look into the immigrant experience.

The hackathon featured speakers, judges, and mentors from the New York City Council, New York State Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance,, Fueled, Major League Hacking, New York Immigration Coalition, CUNY Dreamers and other New York-area organizations. Event sponsors included Impact Hub NYC, The Studio Project, Innovation Collective, “I Am An Immigrant,” Major League Hacking, Civic Hall, and AlleyWatch.

Last year’s event featured innovative projects like the creation of a chatbot that could provide information about government services and job opportunities to people without internet access, and an app that maps areas where immigrants can find cultural foods, cultural events, and places of worship in the New York City area.


Below are quotes from participants:

“It was so wonderful to see each team’s process throughout the competition. I could see the participants’ wheels turning as they discussed both social issues and tech solutions. While it was no small feat to hack for 24 hours straight, coming together to use our talents and expertise to help a community in need is something all of us can do.” – Angie Kim, Community Organizer, MinKwon Center for Community Action

“For generations, the best and brightest from around the world have helped boost American innovation and economic growth. Our nation’s role as an economic leader is strongly tied to the talented immigrants who have come here to study and work, and in the process made vital contributions to the United States. is proud to partner with some of the country’s most talented developers, designers and artists to find everyday solutions that will help New York remain a welcoming city for immigrants from all walks of life.” – Todd Schulte, President,

“I work for the son of an immigrant. I work alongside immigrants. And I work virtually with colleagues in five countries who wish they could immigrate here. My job wouldn’t exist without immigrants so I’m grateful to support immigrant entrepreneurship at every opportunity.” – Aaron Cohen, Venture Director, Fueled

“The Immigrant Heritage Hackathon is very important to me because I, myself, am an immigrant in tech. As an immigrant I know the struggles, hardships and aspirations that most immigrants have, as a person in tech I know how many solutions and opportunities tech presents. So ideally getting immigrants, policy makers, and techies into one room to share ideas and solve problems can literally change the lives of millions… maybe even billions!” – Georgie-Ann Getton-McKoy, Founder, Illicit Mind

“I am honored to be a part of the hackathon this year. In today’s political climate it’s important to be outspoken about immigrant rights. As an entrepreneur who has been involved in the creation of multiple startups, I’ve seen first-hand how immigrants and their ideas are vital to the tech industry. It’s a privilege to see so many bright minds come together for such an amazing event that highlights the intersection between innovation and immigration.” – John Lynn, Co-Founder, The Studio Project & Co-Founder/Chairperson, Innovation Collective


“I Am An Immigrant” is part of, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that coordinates Immigrant Heritage Month every June. Started in 2014, Immigrant Heritage Month honors the countless contributions made by immigrants to our communities, our economy, our culture, and our collective American identity. “I Am An Immigrant” is an ongoing public awareness campaign to encourage Americans to share stories of their families’ immigrant heritage, and what it means to be an immigrant in America. Learn more about “I Am An Immigrant” and Immigrant Heritage Month by visiting



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