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SXSW Adds Politics to Its Mosh Pit of Tech and Music

Steve Case will be joined onstage by immigrant entrepreneurs representing the #BuiltByImmigrants campaign.

Austin’s annual South By Southwest is already a tech-and-music smorgasbord, and now the massive early March conference is about to add another layer: Politics.

When former AOL chief executive Steve Case is speaking on “Entrepreneurship in America” at SXSW, he’ll be joined onstage by two immigrant entrepreneurs representing the #BuiltByImmigrants campaign, the latest from the immigration reform lobby.

“Everybody knows about Sergey Brin, and that 40 percent of tech companies are started by immigrants, but we wanted to use South By as a way to do mass engagement,” said founder Joe Green, who rose to prominence with his company Causes on Facebook.

Steve Case was happy to share the stage.

“I’ll be talking about the entrepreneurial trends and ideas shaping our future,” Case said in an email. “And immigration reform is one of the most important policy issues affecting entrepreneurialism in our country.”

On the #BuiltByImmigrants site, entrepreneurs who are immigrants can upload their stories, including their companies. People who visit the site can share the stories and, if they feel particularly moved, can tweet, post to Facebook and even snail mail the stories to their own local congressperson. Already, 200,000 people have taken some kind of action (tweet or otherwise) via the site.

The two immigrant entrepreneurs whose stories get shared the most (“earning advocacy points,” Green said) get to be on the panel at SXSW. It will be the first time SXSW has allowed one of their panels to be open to a competition.

“I think it’ll be fun. People are gonna make posters. It’s a really grassroots conference, and we’re going to weave it in through the whole thing,” Green said. “It’ll feel like a political campaign.”

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