As Senate Passes Immigration Bill, the ZuckerPAC Takes a Victory Lap
On a 68-32 vote on Thursday afternoon, the Senate voted to pass a comprehensive overhaul to U.S. immigration policy that could potentially upend current restrictions and open more paths to citizenship for an increased number of highly skilled technology workers, among many others. The bill will head to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where it will undoubtedly face more stiff competition.
Of the many in Washington fighting for or against the bill’s passage, few have gained as much public attention for their efforts as FWD.us, the political action committee formed in part by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and backed with the support of more than 100 Silicon Valley luminaries.
“While immigration is important for our economic future, it is also fundamentally an issue of who we are as people,” Zuckerberg wrote in a status update on his Facebook page. “While a lot work remains to be done before reform becomes law, today’s vote showed that Senators from across the political spectrum came together in a bipartisan way to vote for reform that will move our economy forward and honor our history as a nation of immigrants.”
The bill, if ultimately passed, would allow for the distribution of more H1-B visas to foreign workers, a potential boon for Silicon Valley companies growing increasingly starved for stateside talent in a competitive recruiting atmosphere. The number of H-1B visas available is currently capped on an annual basis, and the bill’s passage would significantly increase that number.
“Today’s vote represents a monumental step forward for comprehensive immigration reform that will do right by the American economy and American families,” said Joe Green, founder and president of FWD.us, in a statement. “Senators from across the political spectrum showed that they are willing to come together in a productive, bipartisan way in an incredibly tough political climate, amid continuing gridlock — and we applaud their courage in doing so.”
To be sure, FWD.us is far from the only group in Washington fighting for comprehensive reform. But the group’s efforts have taken the limelight, due in part to its aggressive spending and lobbying tactics. A source familiar with the matter said that FWD.us spent upward of $5 million on ads in support of the immigration bill, while opposition groups spent less than half that (around $2 million).
Realizing the group’s efficacy, a number of senators in opposition to the bill have begun to attack FWD.us’ efforts on the Senate floor.
Not everyone, however, has been enthralled with FWD.us’ lobbying tactics thus far. The group carefully placed several ads in support of a number of controversial environmental policies in key markets, namely those regarding arctic oil drilling and building the Keystone XL pipeline. As a result of that strategy, green energy proponent and tech superstar Elon Musk withdrew his support for FWD.us earlier this year, publicly condemning the group’s tactics. Yammer founder David Sacks also dropped out of the group.
In spite of its questionable tactics, the group is still backed by a bevy of highly respected Valley personalities, including famed venture capitalist John Doerr, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer.
Now the challenge for FWD.us and other proponents of the bill is the House of Representatives. Though the bill received bipartisan support in the Senate, the “aye” votes were largely composed of Democrats, with only 14 Republican votes to pass (the “nays” were all Republican senators). Moving the bill through the largely Republican House won’t be as easy.
“We recognize that the House will have its own approach to components of reform, and we know that in order for this vitally important process to move forward, the House will work its will as it considers ways to fix our broken, archaic immigration system,” Green said.