Zuckerberg group dials up pressure on immigration (Video)

The political advocacy group co-founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched a lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill Tuesday to push House Republicans to act on immigration reform.

Zuckerberg’s group, FWD.us, joined with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bibles Badges and Business and other pro-immigration groups to sponsor a day-long trip aimed at pressuring House Republicans to bring immigration legislation to the floor for a vote. More than 80 representatives from the tech community across the country met with House Republican members from their home states on Tuesday to make the case for immigration reform.

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One of them was Jesus Loya, a director at a Park City, Utah venture capital firm that invests in early stage startup companies. The immigration issue is a personal one for the Mexico native, who has been waiting more than a year for his green card application to be processed.

Loya came to the United States at 14-years-old on a tourist visa to reunite with his siblings and attend high school. Although his sister is a U.S. citizen and his other family members in the country have green cards, Loya lacked legal documentation and his application to serve in the U.S Marines was rejected after he finished high school.

“That’s when I really found out what it was going to be like to be undocumented in this country,” Loya said. “That didn’t stop me from continuing with my dreams and figuring out how to accomplish them.”

After high school, Loya earned two engineering degrees and an MBA from the University of Utah. Back in June, Loya came to D.C. on another fly-in trip on behalf of FWD.us to meet with Senate members as they considered the Gang of Eight’s sweeping immigration bill.

“This time I’m back in D.C. to share my story with [House members] and together with leaders of faith, labor and government we want to send a unified message to our leaders [and] make sure there’s a sense of urgency back in their communities to pass immigration reform this year,” said Loya, who has a permit to work in the U.S.

He was slated to meet on Tuesday with Utah Republican members, including Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart, as well as centrist Democrat Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah. During those meetings, Loya said he planned to tell lawmakers that immigration reform is needed to fix the broken system and key to strengthening the economy.
 
That same argument for immigration reform was also echoed by Theresa Andrews, director of public policy for San Diego, Calif.-based CONNECT, an organization that supports entrepreneurs and inventors. U.S. companies that are struggling to fill jobs that require advanced technical skills and immigration reform would address “the gap in our current workforce,” she said.

On Tuesday Andrews met with California Republican Darrell Issa, who is circulating a draft bill to stakeholders that would deal with the millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. While encouraged by this movement, Andrews acknowledged that it would be a tough lift for immigration legislation to see floor action before the end of the year.

“I think there’s other issues on the federal agenda right now that are taking precedent over immigration reform,” Andrews said.

Overall, the joint lobbying push sponsored by FWD.us, the Chamber and other pro-immigration groups brought roughly 600 representatives to Washington for meetings with 150 member offices.

FWD.us plans to keep up its push for House action on immigration legislation in the coming days.

Next month the group will host a “DREAMer Hackathon” event at LinkedIn’s Mountain View, Calif. headquarters. Young immigrants who came to the United States illegally with their families, often called “Dreamers” in relation to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, will build digital tools and applications at the “hackathon” event that help promote FWD.us’ advocacy efforts for immigration reform.

Zuckerberg, Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston and Groupon founder Andrew Mason will be on hand to provide feedback on their work.

“We really want to highlight the potential of these kids to our society and how they’re being held back by our broken immigration system,” said FWD.us President Joe Green, who co-founded the group with Zuckerberg.

Green said FWD.us plans to see the battle for immigration reform to the end.

“It’s long, long overdue. We come from the tech industry, where things move really fast and we’re constantly pushing the limits,” Green said.

“We’d be happiest if a bill had passed yesterday [but] we’re patient and really want to make sure this thing happens,” he added.