Silicon Valley based lobby group, FWD.us launches today with the support of numerous tech CEOs and executives, most notably Mark Zuckerberg. The group has advisers from both sides of the political spectrum and will be lobbying the government for the interests of US-based technology companies.
FWD.us, which is pronounced Forward U.S., has just a landing page for the moment, but the first aim of the lobby has already been made clear. Immigration reforms will be at the centre of its efforts, at least at the start.
The launch coincides with the unveiling of newly negotiated immigration reforms by Senate leaders. A consultation will be held on 17 April and FWD.us is expected to take part in the hearing.
Companies in Silicon Valley would like to see an increase in H-1B temporary visas, which are used to bring in high-skilled workers from abroad such as engineers, as well as a diminution in the waiting time for workers to get their green cards. The legislation the organisation is expected to back will also call for tougher border security measures.
Zuckerberg, writing an OpEd for the Washington Post today, explained he was confronted by immigration issues after teaching a class as part of an after-school program for a local community. One of the students in his class was not sure he’d be able to go to university due to his immigration status.
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“These students are smart and hardworking, and they should be part of our future”, Zuckerberg wrote.
“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.”
Immigration is not the only issue FWD.us will look to tackle; education reforms as well as scientific research are both set in the lobby group’s agenda.
While there is a perceived bias towards Democrats in Silicon Valley, FWD.us has political advisers from both major political parties and has set itself up to come across as bi-partisan. Some of the advisers, Politico reports, include Joe Lockhart, who used to work as press secretary of the White House under Clinton, and Dan Senor who was part of Paul Ryan’s advisory team during the electoral race.
Big names of the tech industry are associated with the group, Zuckerberg of course, but Marissa Mayer and Eric Schmidt have also been linked to it as contributors. Other supporters include Ron Conway, John Doerr, Reid Hoffman and Drew Houston.
On top of lobbying Washington D.C. for their agenda, FWD.us will also aim to engage the tech community in political matters, educating it about policy, and organise fundraisers, TechCrunch reports.
The organisation has been set up as a 501(c)(4) non-profit social welfare organisation, which means it will be able to receive unlimited donations. While no official figures have been published, rumour has it Zuckerberg’s contribution totalled $20 million, and other donations also passed the million dollar mark, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.