This week, the focus of immigration reform advocacy efforts will shift to the LinkedIn headquarters in Mountain View, California, where tech leaders will host a hackathon in support of an immigration overhaul.
FWD.us, a pro-reform organization led by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has invited a small group of young undocumented immigrants to develop digital tools that could aid the immigration movement.
Zuckerberg will be in attendance, assisting the teams as they build their projects. But the event’s location — the LinkedIn homebase — will also give a bit of the spotlight to a lesser-known backer of immigration reform, LinkedIn co-founder and chairman Reid Hoffman.
Just as LinkedIn plays second-fiddle to Facebook in the social media sphere, Hoffman has been a background player on immigration reform. He’s one of the co-founders of FWD.us, but he hasn’t gotten the same media attention as Zuckerberg.
Facebook is a much bigger player in the lobbying sphere than LinkedIn. Zuckerberg’s company spent nearly $5 million on lobbying in the 2013 fiscal year, with a focus on immigration issues, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
LinkedIn also lobbied for a change in immigration laws, but only spent $90,000 in total lobbying over the same period.
There’s also the Zuckerberg persona. He’s a tech-world celebrity, known more intimately to the public after the contentious 2010 bio pic, The Social Network.
Hoffman certainly has his fans — and has been at the forefront of digital activism in the past — but don’t expect an Aaron Sorkin script any time soon. LinkedIn just isn’t as sexy as Facebook, even if Hoffman is an accomplished businessman.
The event gives Hoffman a chance to show that he’s not just looking for immigration reform that brings more foreign-born tech workers to the U.S., although that’s definitely a priority. He also backs a path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Hoffman believes that immigration is a central part of U.S. history, as he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed this summer.
“Identities don’t just happen,” he wrote. “They are consciously crafted. Indeed, if our forefathers had wanted to be known as the Land of the Secure and Protectionist, they would have erected a giant sculpture of a barrier in New York Harbor. Instead, they went with the Roman goddess of freedom who, with her 30-foot torch, has served as an icon of American enlightenment for more than 100 years.”