Silicon Valley leaders unite as in push for more H-1B visas

Co-founded by Facebook's Zuckerberg, organization will push lawmakers to reform immigration and improve education

A veritable who's-who of young Silicon Valley tech leaders -- including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer -- have united to form, a nonprofit organization devoted to advocating policies such as immigration and education reform "to build the knowledge economy the United States needs to ensure more jobs, innovation and investment."

Among the group's goals is modifying the guest worker program to increase the number of H-1B visas, an objective advocated by such tech giants as Microsoft. Observers who argue that increasing the number of visas leads to lower salaries will no doubt be watching closely.

Zuckerberg laid out the challenges aims to address in an opinion piece posted to the Washington Post, lamenting the sad state of America's education system and the immigration policies preventing the country from moving from an economy based on natural resources, industrial machines, and manual labor to one based on knowledge and ideas.

"My great-grandparents came through Ellis Island. My grandfathers were a mailman and a police officer. My parents are doctors. I started a company. None of this could have happened without a welcoming immigration policy, a great education system, and the world's leading scientific community that created the Internet," he wrote. "Today's students should have the same opportunities -- but our current system blocks them. We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants. And it's a policy unfit for today's world."

The group -- which has offices in both Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. -- will work with members of politicians on both sides of the aisle to promote the following:

  • Comprehensive immigration reform that allows for the hiring of the best and brightest
  • Education reforms that produce more graduates in the science, technology, and math fields and ensure all children receive a high-quality education from effective teachers and accountable schools
  • Support for scientific research, which seeds the future innovation of our knowledge economy, and breakthrough developments

The website emphasizes the need for immigration reform and provides specifics as to what the group is advocating: "In order to remain globally competitive, the President and Congress need to reform the country's archaic and broken immigration system to attract innovators, and build prosperous neighborhoods with strong families and good jobs."

To that end, advocates:

  • Establishing a streamlined process for "admitting future workers"
  • Modifying the guest worker program to include an increase the number of H-1B visas
  • Developing a simple and effective employment-verification system
  • Creating a pathway to citizenship for immigrants currently living in the United States that do not have legal status
  • Securing the border by providing law-enforcement the necessary tools

"We will use online and offline advocacy tools to build support for policy changes, and we will strongly support those willing to take the tough stands necessary to promote these policies in Washington," said Zuckerberg.

The group's list of founders and contributors is fairly expansive. Founders include Zuckerberg, Dropbox's Houston, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. Major contributors include Yahoo's Mayer; Google's Schmidt; Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb; Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator; Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix; Max Levchin, chairman of Yelp; Andrew Mason, co-founder of Groupon; Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors; and Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga.

This article, "Silicon Valley leaders unite as in push for more H-1B visas," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.


Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.