How useful was the FWD.us initiative?
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: Mark Zuckerberg’s large-scale initiative to galvanize Silicon Valley into backing comprehensive immigration reform has now, for all intents and purposes, died, now that House Republicans are unwilling to vote on the measure this year and President Barack Obama has vowed to take matters into his own hands.
A new article by Politico questions just how useful Zuckerberg’s FWD.us campaign really was in bringing about the immigration overhaul that the US no longer has any hope of seeing in 2014. Zuckerberg enlisted the help of several IT big-shots – which included Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings – and poured millions into influencing immigration policy for the tech sector.
Before last year’s Senate vote on the comprehensive immigration reform bill – then known as the “Gang of Eight” legislation inside the Beltway – FWD.us disclosed that it spent $5 million on its lobbying efforts to get the bill passed. Sure enough, the Senate did pass the bill, moving it onto the House of Representatives as the final stage before it landed on Obama’s desk.
But that final step never happened, as the House completely blocked the bill amidst Republican stone-walling and increasingly partisan politics that gridlocked immigration reform’s chances of passage in 2013. This year, before the bill essentially died last month, FWD. us had spent nearly $800,000 on lobbying efforts, downscaling its work in that realm in order to focus more on public awareness and “popular appeal,” as the article states.
The group’s views on immigration reform do not just pertain to IT and STEM fields, but to all equally. But it’s hard to deny that its main area of interest was the H-1B cap, and getting the US government to allow more high-skilled workers to enter the US.
“Some found the group’s tactics off-putting, even distracting — such as selfies sent to Congress in the name of immigration reform or abrasive attack ads against lawmakers who disagreed,” says the article, adding that “few dismissed its initiative.”
Florida’s Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a key Republican in the immigration debate, is quoted as calling the FWD.us advocates among the “most effective” that he ever dealt with, but it was all to no avail at the end of the day.
The tech industry continues to wrestle with how to move forward now that the H-1B cap will not go up anytime soon. In the meantime, the rest of America waits to see what Obama will do with his executive orders on immigration, while the entire world waits to see if comprehensive immigration reform really will happen during his Presidency.