Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke out publicly for the first time for immigration reform Monday night, saying Silicon Valley’s backing of legislation in Congress is more than just a self-interested hunt for foreign tech workers.
“This is something we believe is really important for the future of our country,” Zuckerberg said at the premiere of the film Documented, made by writer and activist Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who also was an undocumented immigrant.
“We talk about high-skilled H1-Bs and full comprehensive immigration reform as if they are two separate issues,” Zuckerberg said. “But anyone who knows immigration knows that they’re not.”
The tech industry, including FWD.us, a group Zuckerberg created, has been intensely lobbying Congress to raise the cap on H-1B visas. The bill passed in the Senate holds the potential to triple the 65,000 H-1Bs granted now. So far, the House has refused to consider the measure.
Zuckerberg told the premiere audience in San Francisco that he founded FWD.us after working with a group of middle schoolers. When asked what they’re most afraid of, one boy said he feared being unable to attend college because he is undocumented.
Though essentially a lobbying group, FWD.us has been rocked by high-profile defections after its support for conservative lawmakers who back controversial policies such as Arctic oil drilling and the building of the Keystone XL pipeline was revealed. Now the group is focused on redefining its public image, stressing that it has more than just self-interest at heart.
“When we started Fwd., we insisted — as we insist today — at comprehensive immigration reform,” FWD.us President Joe Green said at the film premiere, according to All Things Digital. “Immigration is who we are.”
The fate of immigration reform remains uncertain in the House. Speaker John Boehner has said the chamber won’t take up the Senate bill, but instead will craft its own legislation – and it’s in no hurry to do so. It won’t take up the matter until after its August recess, and even then it’s likely to draft a series of smaller bills rather than the sweeping reform that the Senate envisions.