May 14, 2013
Only a month ago, Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive and co-founder of Facebook, decided he was going to put together a dream team of backers and together they would influence immigration policy decisions in Washington. Today, after a series of questionable ads, Zuckerberg’s backers are backing out faster than you can say, “Global Warming.”
On April 11, 2013, Zuckerberg launched FWD.us, a group of advocates pushing for immigration reform. Among their list of reforms the group is asking for better tools and support for law enforcement guarding our borders, a simple and effective employment verification system, and a clear pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
The main focus of FWD.us, however, is modifying the guest worker program, namely the H-1B visa system.
Currently in the U.S. the H-1B is a non-immigrant visa which temporarily allows employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, such as chemistry, architecture, engineering, biotechnology, and medicine. The worker must possess at least a bachelor’s degree and be licensed to practice in that field. If the worker quits or is fired, he must either re-apply and find another approved employer or leave the U.S.
Zuckerberg and his group would like to increase the number of H-1B visas and streamline the process “to attract the world’s best and the brightest workers.” They also want to implement reforms that would make it easier and more attractive for these “best and brightest” to stay in the U.S. permanently.
Make no mistake, Zuckerberg isn’t lobbying for the sake of America. He’s not looking at this effort as a way to improve America’s economy or our competitive standing in the global marketplace, like all the talking heads are spouting in Washington. He doesn’t think that far ahead.
Here’s what Zuckerberg and his buddies really want, they want an easy out, they want instant gratification, which is typical of Zuckerberg and his generation. They want something and they want it now and they’re willing to pay whatever it takes to get it now, regardless of the future consequences.
Lobbying to improve educational opportunities, lobbying to increase teacher salaries to attract “better and brighter” teachers, lobbying to improve educational programs to make America competitive again, would all take too much time.
And Zuckerberg and his group wouldn’t be the first to address these issues. They’ve all been addressed time and time again, yet the the American educational system continues to rank poorly when compared to other countries.
According to a study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, after looking at a combination of international test results, literacy rates and graduation rates, the United States ranks 17th out of the 50 countries included in the study. Finland and South Korea have the top two spots, but even Poland, Germany and Belgium have better educational systems than the U.S.
Instead of fighting what has already proven to be a long and difficult battle, one he’s not really guaranteed to win, and instead of investing in the future of America and our children, the easiest way for Zuckerberg to get the “better, brighter” associates he wants for his company is to just go out and buy them. And in this case that means buying the votes that would help push through his immigration reforms.
But Zuckerberg is finding out that it’s a whole new ballgame in Washington and he’s just a small, inexperienced fish in a very large pool filled with sharks. In Washington, you can’t just jump into the game and start playing. You have to put on your big-boy pants first, and then you need to learn the rules.
FWD.us has already managed to anger environmental groups by running a series of television ads supporting politicians who in turn support construction of the Keyston SL oil pipeline. The ads have nothing to do with immigration reform but they do support politicians who can help get Zuckerberg’s proposals through the Senate. To add insult to injury, the ads were paid for by Americans for a Conservative Direction, a subsidiary of FWD.us.
The Keyston XL oil pipeline is just one of the many significant controversial issues on Obama’s plate right now. If he approves its construction it could mean up to a 40 percent reduction in America’s dependence on oil from Venezuela and the Middle East. It could also create thousands of jobs here in America.
Opponents, including the Environmental Protection Agency, argue that construction of the pipeline would increase greenhouse gas emissions up to 18.7 million metric tons per year, and the potential catastrophic damage due to oil spills is just too great to even consider.
Several members of FWD.us have already dropped out of the group, including Tesla and PayPal co-founder Elon Musk and Yammer chief executive David Sacks. MoveOn.org and the Sierra Club have stated they’ll no longer display ads on Facebook. Credo Mobile, a wireless carrier which advocates on liberal issues, has launched a petition calling for Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman to also distance themselves from the group.
“We want to ask: Is this really the kind of politics you want to be involved in?” said Becky Bond, Credo Mobile’s political director. “In the tech world, we have more a belief in transparency. It’s surprising that a bunch of tech giants who are so smart when it comes to running their businesses could be so dumb as they get involved in politics.”
The point is, Mark Zuckerberg, you can’t always get what you want, as fast as you want it. If you want to play in Washington you have to learn the nuances of the game. And if you want to play in America, then it’s time to stop alienating your teammates. Come down off your high hobby horse and take a look around. The resources you’re looking for, “the best and the brightest,” are already here, you just need to help develop them.
Don’t let these politicians and lobbyists con you into believing there’s a shortage of skilled labor in America. Look at your own children. They all have the potential to become the skilled, “better, brighter” labor this country needs, and every child in America deserves that opportunity.
But it will take time, and an investment of money and resources to bring America’s educational system back up to par. Our leaders just aren’t willing to make that sacrifice. Instead, it’s easier just to sacrifice your kids and bring in “better, brighter” workers from other countries.