SANTA MONICA, California — FWD.us, the immigration reform initiative founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, plans to launch a massive political push in December to support President Barack Obama’s planned executive action on immigration. On Tuesday evening, it brought roughly 100 entrepreneurs to a “mini-hackathon” at tech incubator Cross Campus as part of a nationwide push to support the president’s strategy.
Though FWD.us declares that its mission is “to advocate for policies that will make the American dream achievable in the 21st century economy,” its main focus is immigration reform, which it describes as necessary both for economy growth and to “live up to our American ideals.” The group includes tech heavyweights such as Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates; Google’s Eric Schmidt; and former Napster founder Sean Parker.
Materials distributed at Tuesday’s gathering, one in a series of monthly meetings, called for “[e]ncouraging the President to take meaningful executive action, both for undocumented immigrants and talented tech workers in need of visas.” The FWD.us organizers refer to such executive action as “administrative relief,” rather than “executive amnesty,” the term favored by opponents of the president’s anticipated unilateral effort.
Details about the president’s proposed actions have leaked in recent weeks, and Republicans have called upon President Obama to reveal his plans before, rather than after, Election Day. The tech community appears to have accepted a Republican victory on Nov. 4 as a given, and is pressing ahead with efforts to shape public opinion in support of the president, regardless of constitutional problems or policy questions that may arise.
The activists of FWD.us explicitly model their campaign on the effort to secure gay marriage. “Take the movement for marriage equality,” materials distributed at the event said. “It’s hard to oppose marriage for gay couples when you know the stories of your LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer] friends, family, and coworkers.”
Accordingly, FWD.us is seeking to compile stories and videos of immigrants or illegal aliens talking about their respective predicaments: “With stories, we can push the needle of public opinion.”
Activists shared several ideas, including suggestions to “create the next Ice Bucket Challenge,” a successful viral social media campaign that raised money for the ALS Association to research a cure for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The forthcoming social media campaign will make use of shared analytics across a variety of social media platforms, including but not limited to Facebook and Twitter.
Aside from using social media technologies to affect public opinion, the political strategy behind the FWD.us push is to put increased pressure on Democrats in Congress–not to vote on pending legislation, but to raise specific issues with the White House, particularly the desire to make immigration easier for tech employees.
There was no discussion at the Santa Monica meeting of technological innovations to improve border security, to verify employees’ immigration status, or to educate prospective immigrants about how to come to the country legally. Nor was there any mention of the constitutional separation of powers, which theoretically require the president to execute the laws passed by Congress, not to impose his own legislative will by executive fiat.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak