Any day now Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook status may read: On an immigration mission.
Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, is said to be forming an advocacy group focused on comprehensive immigration reform, according to Politico, a political news website.
The 28-year-old would be the latest of a growing chorus of high-tech leaders pushing for a reform to the immigration system that would make it easier to recruit foreign highly-skilled workers.
In recent months, tech industry leaders have met with President Obama and members of Congress to push for expanded visas for high-tech workers, as well as for provisions that would give more opportunities to foreign students who receive degrees in science and technology to qualify for permanent U.S. residency.
Steve Case, a founder of AOL, testified at the first Senate hearing this year on immigration legislation.
Tech leaders say a better immigration system is crucial to keeping the United States out front globally on digital matters.
Zuckerberg reportedly has already poured millions into the advocacy group, which is likely to be a non-profit, and which Politico said would start with a focus on immigration reform.
Immigrants for years have been a key part of the tech industry, accounting at times for half the startups in Silicon Valley, for example. Foreign-born entrepreneurs founded engineering and technology companies that employed about 560,000 people and generated an estimated $63 billion in sales from 2006 to 2012, said entrepreneur and Duke University researcher Vivek Wadhwa said, citing his research.
Politico reported that working with Zuckerberg is Joe Green, a former Harvard roommate of the Facebook CEO who is co-founder of NationBuilder and Causes.
The website said that both Green and a Facebook spokesperson declined to comment.
Last fall, a Republican-backed House bill sought 55,000 visas for international students graduating from a U.S. university with an advanced degree in science, math or technology. But while the bill passed in the House, it died in the Senate, where Democrats insisted that the bill also expand opportunities for family members of people living legally in the United States to obtain a green card.
There are some 80,000 of these family-based green cards allocated every year, but there are about 322,000 husbands, wives and children waiting in this category and on average people must wait more than two years to be reunited with their families.
Mexico has the most people on the waiting list, with more than 138,000 people, or 43 percent of all people on the list, according to the U.S. State Department. The Dominican Republic is next, with nearly 31,000, followed by Cuba, with 16,000.
Wadhwa, the Duke University researcher, said immigrants are major contributors to the U.S. innovation and competitiveness.
That contribution, however, is in jeopardy as the growth rate of immigrant-founded companies has stagnated because of visa policies, bureaucracy and immigration laws.
"We're choking off the pipeline here," Wadhwa said. "We are boosting the economies of our competitors, in other words, the people that we'd want here starting companies and building innovation here are doing it in ... India, China, Brazil and Mexico," where researchers are seeing the most innovation because of U.S.-educated returnees.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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