On Monday, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg used the story of an illegal immigrant high school student he taught for a semester to advance the cause of “full comprehensive immigration reform” and more high-skilled visas that he and his political action committee have been relentlessly championing.
In his first public remarks on the subject, Zuckerberg spoke in San Francisco at a screening of Documented, a movie about illegal immigrants and former Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas. Vargas outed himself as an illegal immigrant in a 2011 New York Times Magazine article. Zuckerberg’s PAC, FWD.us, which was created to help pass comprehensive immigration reform, co-sponsored the screening.
“People often talk about two parts of the issue,” Zuckerberg said at the event. “High skilled H1-B issues that tech companies have and full comprehensive reform as if they are two completely separate issues. But anyone who knows a Dreamer, knows they’re not.”
He suggested that many “Dreamers” would later become technology entrepreneurs.
Zuckerberg relayed a story about teaching a class of students at East Menlo Park about entrepreneurship for a semester. While he was teaching, Zuckerberg said a student raised his hand when he asked what they were worried about and told Zuckerberg he was worried about not being able to go to college because he “was not documented.”
“This really touched me. I kinda made this connection,” Zuckerberg said, noting that the student said he hoped someone did something to “rally this community and to help organize and give us all an equal opportunity.”
Zuckerberg said he then talked to friends who run tech companies soon after. “We decided to do our best in creating this organization that will hopefully push to get comprehensive immigration reform done,” he explained.
He said Silicon Valley was an “idealistic” place; he noted it was easy to get leaders to support “full comprehensive immigration reform” and his PAC instead of issues that mattered to their companies.
Many Silicon Valley leaders reportedly decided at the beginning of the immigration debate that the best way for them to get the high-skilled visas their companies want was to go all-in on immigration reform instead of advocating for a piecemeal legislation specific to their needs.