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After losing supporters, refocuses its efforts

Somini Sengupta (via NYT/ AFR) | July 5, 2013
After fumbling badly soon after its debut this spring, the advocacy group is now trying to turn around its image in a bid to fight for immigration overhaul in the House.

After losing supporters, refocuses its efforts
Mark Zuckerberg has said that he chose to tackle immigration after hearing the life stories of unauthorised students at a junior high school near Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, where he taught a class. Photo: AP

>On a recent Monday evening, in a large, warmly lighted room at a technology incubator here, guests drank pinot noir, waiters offered seared tuna, and a young man in a T-shirt and sneakers introduced himself to a gathering of tech entrepreneurs as a tech entrepreneur himself: "Hi, I'm Joe Green, president of"

Mr Green was pressing the flesh to drum up support for, the advocacy group he created with financial backing from his college roommate, Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook co-founder, and several of their mostly young millionaire friends in Silicon Valley. It was a critical moment for the organisation, because soon after making its debut this spring, fumbled badly.

Its stated goal was to overhaul immigration law. But its first steps included financing flashy, campaign-style television ads for conservative lawmakers, whose votes were seen as crucial to passing an immigration bill in the Senate. The ads promoted their pet conservative causes, including the Keystone XL pipeline. immediately lost many of its existing and would-be supporters in the valley.

Now the group is trying to turn around its image as it gears up for the fight for immigration overhaul in the House.

For now, its ads focus squarely on immigration rather than other more incendiary issues like drilling in Alaska or health insurance regulation. Its most recent television spot, for example, praised Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, for supporting the Senate bill last week despite significant opposition in her state. Its latest web ad is a paean to the ultimate American ideal: the Statue of Liberty.

The group also has a new executive director, Todd Schulte, a veteran political aide with the Washington experience that Mr Green lacks. And it is organising tried-and-true town hall meetings like the one here to rally industry support for lawmakers who support a more open immigration policy, including provisions to let tech companies bring in many more foreign engineers. Others are planned in critical battleground districts, like Utah and North Carolina.

This evening, Mr Green invited entrepreneurs to speak about their run-ins with the immigration bureaucracy. A few engineers from overseas had joined the meeting using Skype; slow-moving, teleporting robots wheeled iPads around the room, showing their disembodied faces glowing on screen. One member of Congress was here to hear their complaints: Representative Mike Honda, a Democrat from nearby San Jose.


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