Mark Zuckerberg joins tech bosses in supporting Obama on immigration

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley leaders have urged the supreme court to uphold Barack Obama’s efforts to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the US.

It marks the latest step in what has largely been a tough political sell by US technology firms to the rest of the country: that additional immigrants would benefit the American economy. The issue has long struck a chord here, where many of the industry’s hottest companies rely heavily on executives and engineers born elsewhere.

“Instead of inviting the economic contributions of immigrants, our immigration enforcement policies have often inhibited the productivity of US companies and made it harder for them to compete in the global marketplace,” said a court brief, published on 8 March by Zuckerberg’s advocacy group FWD.us. “America’s immigration enforcement policies should ensure that immigrants’ ingenuity, skills, and entrepreneurial spirit are contributing to the US economy.”

Other executives who signed on to the brief include LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and venture capitalists Ron Conway and Jeremy Levine.

The case will determine whether Obama overstepped presidential power when, through executive order, he created a program where potentially millions of undocumented parents of their US-born children could stay in the country indefinitely through a work permit. The state of Texas sued to block the order, and a lower court halted it until further review.

Since the last presidential election, Zuckerberg and the other executives behind FWD.us have tried to push Congress to overhaul American immigration policies. They played a key role in shaping the bill co-authored by the current Republican presidential hopeful Florida senator Marco Rubio that failed in Congress due to lack of GOP support.

For Silicon Valley, the issue has been both personal and economic. Facebook, LinkedIn and other companies say they need more visas for high-skilled immigrants. In the meantime, many executives care about the issue given their own upbringing; many were the children of migrants, such as Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, or migrated to the US themselves, including SpaceX founder Elon Musk, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Staying involved in the issue is also important for Facebook from a public relations standpoint. The company recently faced a backlash in India for trying to offer free mobile broadband service to some users, but only to access certain websites, such as Facebook.

The brief is clearly written more for a general audience than a court clerk. Many of the citations point to academic studies and press articles rather than other court cases. “Failure to address the status of undocumented immigrants and their families,” the brief says, “also erodes the long-term skills base of our workforce.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Danny Yadron in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 9th March 2016 02.35 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010