Money & Business

Mark Zuckerberg Launches Lobby Focused on Immigration

By / Apr 11, 2013 (photo by TechCrunch/Flickr)

The Facebook founder’s new FWD.us lobby, a bipartisan advocacy group of tech companies, is pressing political issues it believes would keep the U.S. workforce competitive, with high-skilled immigration the group’s key issue starting out.

For the second time in a year, the tech world has put a new lobbying foot forward in Washington, DC.

First came the formal launch of the Internet Association, a group focused on protecting the freedom of the internet. Now, FWD.us, an advocacy organization backed by Mark Zuckerberg and several major figures in Silicon Valley and the tech world, is approaching another key issue for many companies in the tech sector—immigration reform for high-skilled workers.

The group launched Thursday with the help of a Washington Post op-ed by Zuckerberg.

“We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants. And it’s a policy unfit for today’s world,” Zuckerberg wrote.

More details below:

We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants. And it’s a policy unfit for today’s world.

The group’s mission: In his op-ed, Zuckerberg lays out an organizational mission that includes three key pressure points for many tech companies—comprehensive immigration reform; increased education standards for science, technology, engineering, and math (commonly referred to as STEM education); and increased research in science “and assurance that the benefits of the inventions belong to the public and not just to the few.” He emphasizes that FWD.us is looking for bipartisan solutions to wider political issues. “As leaders of an industry that has benefited from this economic shift” to a knowledge-based economy, he writes, “we believe that we have a responsibility to work together to ensure that all members of our society gain from the rewards of the modern knowledge economy.”

Big-name backers: Beyond Zuckerberg, the list of founders is a roundup of major tech-world luminaries, including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, and a number of key venture capitalist partners. The contributors list includes other major tech-world names, including Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, YouTube cofounder Chad Hurley, and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. On the leadership front, the organization’s president, Joe Green, is a noted grassroots organizer who founded the Facebook-associated advocacy company Causes and the grassroots software company NationBuilder. Green was a roommate of Zuckerberg’s at Harvard.

The challenges it could face: The lobby thus far has raised some questions from TechCrunch’s Gregory Ferenstein, who pointed out that there are numerous associations in this space already, including the Internet Association, the Consumer Electronics Association, and TechNet. He wondered about the ability of big tech names and money to get things done in DC on immigration reform, noting that they haven’t yet been able to fix the problem—recently highlighted by the limited number of high-skilled worker visas available for companies for fiscal year 2014. But Ferenstein says FWD.us could nonetheless pull it off: “Zuckerberg’s Washington Post op-ed was elegant and powerful, but it didn’t say anything new. In order for the message to get into the DC psyche, FWD.us members need to be the epicenter of bold, sticky ideas,” he wrote.

This is not Zuckerberg’s first effort in the political or advocacy realm. In 2010, the Facebook founder donated $100 million to the Newark, New Jersey, school district, and earlier this year he hosted a fundraiser for Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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