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Laurene Powell Jobs on immigration reform & Steve Jobs' 'private legacy'

By Rima Abdelkader

Rock Center

Laurene Powell Jobs is speaking publicly for the first time since her husband Steve Jobs' death to advocate for immigration reform.

“I started getting more and more active around immigration reform because this was such a waste of lives, such a waste of potential, such a waste for our country not to have the human capital that we developed – geared towards improving our entire society,” said Powell Jobs in an exclusive interview with Rock Center Anchor Brian Williams airing Friday, April 12 at 10pm/9CDT on NBC. 

While Powell Jobs is focused and committed to her goal of getting immigration legislation passed, the intensely private Powell Jobs also addressed her husband's legacy.

“His private legacy with me and the kids is that of husband and father, and we miss him every day,” said Powell Jobs of the late Apple co-founder.  

Powell Jobs is leaving her own mark on the immigration debate. She and filmmaker Davis Guggenheim recently teamed up to promote immigration reform through the film "The Dream Is Now." They both appeared on Capitol Hill this week showcasing the film to members of Congress.

Click here to watch "The Dream Is Now" trailer.

“So my hope is that, when we tell this story, people see the human lives that are at stake,” said Guggenheim of the film that airs Sunday, April 14 on MSNBC. “It definitely has an opinion to it.”

Guggenheim, the documentarian behind “Waiting for Superman,” focuses his latest film on the fight over the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) would provide high school graduates or students or those who have served in the military a pathway towards legal status.

The film focuses in part on Jose, a young boy who excelled in mathematics and dreamt of becoming a mechanical engineer.  He got a full scholarship to Arizona State University and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering – in a state that faced a shortage of engineers. Still, because Jose was undocumented, he wasn’t able to apply for the jobs his fellow students were eligible for.  Today, he works construction with his father and brother.

“It’s honest work, but he wanted to do more,” filmmaker Guggenheim added. “When he was a kid and he pledged allegiance to the flag, and his teacher said, “You know Jose, if you work hard in this country, you can do anything.” He bought into that and he believed it, and then he got to a certain point and the rules changed.”

Jose isn’t alone in feeling hopeless when it comes to pursuing what he feels is his full potential.  There are roughly 11 million immigrants that live in the United States without legal consent and without work documentation.

“We have educated individuals and individuals who want to further their education, passionately, deeply, right here in our country who we are not enabling,” Powell Jobs said.

Several thousand protesters, including Jose, also came to Washington this week demanding immigration reform. A bi-partisan push in both the House and the Senate to provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented men, women and children already in the US is underway.

President Obama signed a memo calling for “deferred action” or a temporary reprieve from deportation for undocumented immigrants who would’ve qualified for the Dream Act last June. Several versions of the bill have been introduced in both the Senate and in the House. One version failed in the Senate in 2007. Another version was passed on in the House in 2010. Some Senate Republicans argued that it would encourage more people to break the law and that securing the borders takes precedence.

Powell Jobs and Guggenheim are confident that most of the contentious issues have been resolved between both parties.

“I think there’s been a great realization over the last several years that, in fact we do not wish to punish the children because of any actions from their parents,” Powell Jobs said.

“One of my favorite quotes is a lawmaker said, “I do not support any immigration policy that would’ve kept my grandparents out of the country.”  And I think that's a good rule.  How about we agree upon what our common American values are, which is let’s make this a true land of opportunity.  We’re also a land of rules and laws that should be enforced.  Let's fix this problem, and then let's let people flourish,” Powell Jobs said.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows about two-thirds of Americans support providing undocumented immigrants with a path to American citizenship.

Powell Jobs and Guggenheim hope reforms will happen in the not-so-distant future for Jose and the other young adults they profile in “The Dream is Now.”

“I think that, when you see a terrible waste of a life and something that can be resolved with political courage, and you have a chance to amplify the voices that are being heard, it's a group privilege to be able to do that,” Powell Jobs said.

Editor’s Note: Rock Center’s full report airs Friday, April 12 at 10pm/9CDT on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.