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WASHINGTON, DC -- A group of business, political and immigration leaders and students who hoped to raise $1 mililon for scholarships for young people not legally in the U.S. said Tuesday it has raised $25 million.

"Why help Dreamers? Because it will be terrible for them and for our country if we do not do it,” said Don Graham, CEO of the Graham Holding Company and former owner of The Washington Post. The fund, which already has paid for 39 scholarships, was announced at the launch of TheDream.US.

Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, a co-founder, called the program a bipartisan effort. “I have yet to speak to one Republican who says no, I’m not interested," Gutierrez said.

Democratic fundraiser and businessman Henry Munoz III, a TheDream.US cofounder, said the money begins to address "the fact that if we don't begin to educate this generation of people who are here, the economy of our people may not survive."

Republicans recently released a set of principles on immigration reform indicating they may be willing to move forward on legislation, though some conservatives have suggested it won't happen this year.

The scholarships are open to immigrant youth brought to the country when their parents arrived or stayed illegally. They are not eligible for federal financial aid to pay for their college. The group is taking applications through its website.

Among those at the launch was actor Diego Luna, who directed the film "Cesar Chavez," about the Mexican-American civil rights hero. The film is due to be released February 28. Luna has endorsed the scholarship program.

“The story of the Dreamers is the story that shows us the future is ours,” Luna said.