NEW YORK -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley leaders have formally launched a political group aimed at revamping immigration policy, boosting education and encouraging investment in scientific research.
Mr. Zuckerberg announced formation of FWD.us (pronounced "forward us") in an op-ed article in The Washington Post late Wednesday night. In it, he said the United States needs a new approach to these issues if it is to get ahead economically. This includes offering a path to citizenship for the 11 million or so immigrants who now live in the United States illegally.
"We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants," wrote the co-founder of the world's largest social-networking website. "And it's a policy unfit for today's world.
"My great-grandparents came through Ellis Island," he wrote. "My grandfathers were a mailman and a police officer. My parents are doctors. I started a company. None of this could have happened without a welcoming immigration policy, a great education system and the world's leading scientific community that created the Internet."
Mr. Zuckerberg said he wants "comprehensive immigration reform that begins with effective border security, allows a path to citizenship and lets us attract the most talented and hardest-working people, no matter where they were born."
The move comes at an opportune time. The Facebook billionaire's goals echo a sweeping immigration bill that a bipartisan Senate group may offer perhaps as soon as next week.
Companies such as Microsoft and Google, along with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have been pushing to make it easier for highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs to work in the United States. Although Fwd.us supports increasing the number of visas available to these workers, its goals are broader.
Mr. Zuckerberg also urged higher standards and accountability in schools and increased focus on learning about science, technology, engineering and math. Today's knowledge and ideas-based economy, the 28-year-old Harvard dropout wrote, is very different from the 20th-century economy that was based on natural resources, industrial machines and labor. Fwd.us, he said, was created "to build the knowledge economy the United States needs to ensure more jobs, innovation and investment."
Mr. Zuckerberg's foray may not change the immigration debate playing field, said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, an Arlington, Va.-based advocacy group that works to reduce immigration. "The tech companies have been lobbying like crazy for a decade," Mr. Beck said in an interview. "Every member of Congress already knows the tech companies have money to throw around in their campaigns, and that the tech companies want more foreign workers."
Bloomberg News contributed.