Mark Zuckerberg joins fight for immigration reform

August 6, 2013

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Bloomberg)

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed a quote by Washington Post columnist Vivek Wadhwa to Mark Zuckerberg. Wadhwa told the San Francisco Chronicle, “You will win people over in their hearts… Buying politicians is the wrong way to do it.” 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke up for immigration reform at an invitation-only forum Monday night in San Francisco, sponsored by the advocacy group FWD.us and the immigrant-rights group Define American.Dressed in his signature sweatshirt and sneakers, the pioneering Internet entrepreneur said that the students in his entrepreneurship class at an eastern Menlo Park school revealed to him the need for comprehensive immigration reform. He said undocumented students, "weren't going to be given equal opportunity," and cited one boy in particular who admitted "I'm not sure I'm going to be able to go to college because I'm undocumented."

"This is something that we believe is really important for the future of our country -- and for us to do what's right," Zuckerberg said, alongside Joe Green, his former Harvard roommate and the co-founder of FWD.us.

Zuckerberg's alignment with Green and collaboration with Define American, which was founded by former journalist and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas, reveals a serious investment in the fight for citizenship. In the past, Zuckerberg has been notably mum on political issues, but he recently has upped his presence in the political arena. Earlier this year, he wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post announcing FWD.us, using the same Menlo Park school example.

While Zuckerberg's political involvement is relatively recent, Facebook has been out on the playing field for longer. CNN reported that last fall, the company's PAC gave $140,000 to Republicans and $127,000 to Democrats. In comparison, CNN said, Google doled out $652,000 to both parties, with about $500 more to Republicans. Facebook's PAC donations do not reflect the political leanings of its employees, whose personal contributions are tipped heavily toward Democrats. In total, their personal donations amounted to $116,300 for Democrats and $53,700 for Republicans, according to CNN.

Though Zuckerberg represents monetary wealth, his influence in the innovation field may end up being more valuable. In the past, Zuckerberg has hosted a fundraiser for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and a town hall with President Obama.

Ruth Tam is a writer based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @ruthetam.
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