Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg: Migration Makes Us All Richer

By Leonard Doyle

Photo courtesy of Mashable.com.

As endorsements go, having Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg tell the world about the vital contribution of migration to our economic well-being is hard to top.

That’s what the 28-year-old wunderkind has done in an OpEd for the Washington Post. He explains how his great-grandparents came through Ellis Island and — a couple of generations later — his family joined America’s professional class.

 "None of this could have happened without a welcoming immigration policy, a great education system and the world’s leading scientific community that created the Internet," he says.

Here’s the thing: What Zuckerberg’s really telling us is that the world’s most famous, most successful and most transformational company, might never have come into being had his forebears not shuffled past the Statue of Liberty with its famous inscription: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me…”

There’s nothing sentimental about Zuckerberg’s interest in immigration (though he is married to Priscilla Chan, the child of a Chinese-Vietnamese refugee family). And if you caught The Social Network movie that documents the meteoric rise of Facebook, you will know that he’s hard-headed and driven, to an extreme.

Zuckerberg's Washington Post piece announced the formation of FWD.us, a group of technology leaders arguing for US immigration reform. Zuckerberg poignantly describes how, while volunteering at a middle school (he teaches a class every week to a middle school in Menlo Park, California), he met a Mexican migrant student with great promise but without any hope of going to college in the US because he's an undocumented immigrant. "These students are smart and hardworking, and they should be part of our future."

Comparing his own family’s migrant roots and rapid assimilation into US society, he writes: “This is, after all, the American story. My great-grandparents came through Ellis Island. My grandfathers were a mailman and a police officer. My parents are doctors. I started a company.”

Zuckerberg wants to see a path to US citizenship for the most talented, hard-working people "no matter where they were born." He wants “higher standards for our schools including a greater focus on science, technology, engineering and math; and investments in ‘breakthrough discoveries in scientific research and assurance that the benefits of the inventions belong to the public and not just to the few.’”

Influenced by Bill Gates' philanthropy, Zuckerberg took his first step in 2010 donating $100 million to Newark, New Jersey's public school system. The right to education of migrants, whether undocumented or otherwise, is clearly something that animates this extraordinary individual.

Leonard Doyle is the head of Online Communications for IOM