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US: Facebook CEO backs immigration reform group

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is throwing his weight behind a campaign calling for reform of the US immigration system. The 28-year old billionaire is joining forces with other key players from Silicon valley to create what will likely be a non-profit advocacy group, campaigning on a broad range of issues. Easier post study work rights for foreign graduates is likely to be high among their concerns.

Zuckerberg was among 30 tech executives to sign a letter to the President and Congress this month calling for reform of the immigration systemZuckerberg was among 30 tech executives to sign a letter to the President and Congress this month calling for reform of the immigration system

Zuckerberg is rumoured to have pledged as much as $20 million to the project

The group has bipartisan support, and Zuckerberg is rumoured to have pledged as much as $20 million to the project, while getting others to commit between $2m and $5m each.

“One of the biggest economic challenges facing our nation is the need for more qualified, highly-skilled professionals, domestic and foreign”

“The group is forming at a time when the tech industry is stepping up its immigration efforts, with executives advocating key provisions to help in the battle for global talent,” the US blog Politico said. “But those executives also say they support reforms to create a path to citizenship for undocumented people for the good of the nation and economy.”

While most politicians agree that the immigration system needs reform, a bitterly divided Congress has failed to find consensus on the issue. President Obama is yet to win support for proposals to naturalise America’s near 11 million illegal immigrants, or give green cards to foreign science, technology, engineering and maths graduates of US universities.

Zuckerberg was among 30 tech executives to sign a letter to the President and Congress earlier this month calling for the reforms to be pushed through.

In the letter, the executives wrote: “One of the biggest economic challenges facing our nation is the need for more qualified, highly-skilled professionals, domestic and foreign, who can create jobs and immediately contribute to and improve our economy.

“As leaders of technology companies from around the country, we want to thank you for your sincere efforts in addressing high skilled immigration and we urge that you and your colleagues enact reform legislation this year.”

“We’ve just got to, at this point, work up the political courage to do what’s required”

President Obama also upped the ante on Monday, challenging a bipartisan group of eight senators to table a bill by April which would put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, and allow tens of thousands of new high- and low-skilled workers into the country. The group says the bill is near complete but admitted last week it had been unable to resolve outstanding differences.

Obama said that if debate stalled the White House was ready to put its own bill forward. ”We’ve got a lot of white papers and studies,” he said at at a citizenship ceremony at the White House. “We’ve just got to, at this point, work up the political courage to do what’s required.”

According to research, immigrants start one in four high-tech startups in America while one in four small business owners are immigrants.

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