The global business community has long complained that the complex and contradictory immigration policies of the United States have harmed economic progress in the country.
Perhaps sensing political opportunity, a few bright lights in the technology industry are publicly pushing for reform.
Meet FWD.us, pronounced "Forward U.S.," a new advocacy group comprised of "leading innovators, job creators, business owners and founders from the tech community." (Translation: we are the economy.)
The group, which officially launched this week, intends to "promote policies that will lead to a more advanced workforce and stronger knowledge economy in the U.S."
Prominent supporters include Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Accel Partners' Jim Breyer, Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr, Benchmark Capital partner Matt Cohler, SV Angel advisor Ron Conway, The Social+Capital Partnership's Chamath Palihapitiya, and three Dropbox employees: CEO Drew Houston, engineering VP Aditya Agarwal and operations VP Ruchi Sanghvi.
It's also backed by a number of other Valley luminaries: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Google's Eric Schmidt, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham, Groupon co-founder Andrew Mason, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Path CEO Dave Morin, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus, and Tesla emperor Elon Musk. (There are more.)
The lobby will have offices in Silicon Valley and Washington D.C. and is led by NationBuilder co-founder Joe Green.
Though the group is only focusing on a single issue at the moment, it has pretty specific demands for it:
- Improved border security
- A streamlined process for admitting foreign workers
- An increase in the number of H1-B visas to attract guest workers
- The development of an employment verification system
- A pathway to citizenship for foreign nationals already in the U.S.
- Legal reform of some kind around the issue.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Zuckerberg shed some light on his motivation:
In a knowledge economy, the most important resources are the talented people we educate and attract to our country... why do we kick out the more than 40 percent of math and science graduate students who are not U.S. citizens after educating them? Why do we offer so few H-1B visas for talented specialists that the supply runs out within days of becoming available each year, even though we know each of these jobs will create two or three more American jobs in return? Why don’t we let entrepreneurs move here when they have what it takes to start companies that will create even more jobs?
"We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants," he added.
The declaration comes at an opportune time; U.S. president Barack Obama signaled earlier this year that it was a top priority for his administration. Despite enthusiastic support from the business community and the two dominant political parties here, reform has been elusive — the devil is in the details.
A broad consensus may still be achieved. A U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue is scheduled for April 17, giving Silicon Valley's new advocacy group its first real opportunity to spring into action.
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