When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his position on immigration reform in a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday, no one was surprised to hear that, like many Americans, Zuckerberg found the system flawed. But in the emotionally-charged issue of immigration, Zuckerberg’s perspective is colored by his place in the technology world.
Backed by a group of Silicon Valley’s biggest players, Zuckerberg’s new group, FWD.us, aims to change what they consider flawed immigration policy and jumpstart a longer-reaching educational reform for the U.S. The group calls for tighter border security, a clear route to U.S. citizenship, and a shift toward math and science-focused education.
But immigration policy is a complex issue, and Zuckerberg and his FWD.us teammates have been clear about their own motivations — the ability to drive the U.S. tech industry forward with a more diverse pool of talent.
“In a knowledge economy, the most important resources are the talented people we educate and attract to our country,” Zuckerberg said in his op-ed for the Washington Post.
Specifically, Zuckerberg is concerned with the availability of H-1B visas, or lack thereof. Famously of short supply, the H-1B visa gives skilled immigrant workers the ability to join the U.S. workforce through an advanced work permit of sorts. With the amount of requested visas exceeding the fixed amount allotted each year, many foreign-born workers face the threat of having to leave the country after receiving advanced degrees in the U.S.
Other tech companies pushing for these types of reform include Microsoft, which has called for companies to pay higher fees for H-1B visas to raise the limits on immigration and better fund education in the U.S. for the long term.
As reported by NPR, this is not the first time Zuckerberg has engaged in political activism, but it might be his most outspoken. In many ways, his intent is just as driven by his technological sense as it is by his political — the FWD.us reforms call for much more than a few policy changes.
Basically, his interests haven’t changed, they’ve just found a seed in immigration reform.
So why now? The Atlantic Wire reports there’s nothing new about what Zuckerberg’s suggesting, at least in terms of H-1B.
“Yes, Zuckerberg’s article does mention immigration reforms that don’t necessarily apply to H-1B visa recipients…” Atlantic Wire’s Philip Bump wrote of Zuckerberg’s article. However, Bump said Zuckerberg’s real motivation was likely rooted in ensuring the tech industry gets what it needs out of upcoming immigration reform.
For more on Zuckerberg’s initiative, see this site.
Alisa Reznick is a University of Washington student working as an editorial intern at GeekWire this quarter. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AlisaReznick.