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Happy 'Immigrant Heritage Month' — now vote for immigration reform, please

"What year was your family welcomed to America?" the splash page for Welcome.us asks.

Above: "What year was your family welcomed to America?" the splash page for Welcome.us asks.

Image Credit: Screenshot

“When were you welcome?” asks a new pro-immigration site backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Welcome.us invites people to contribute their own stories about how they or their ancestors immigrated to the U.S. — and it’s designating June as “Immigrant Heritage Month.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s embattled political lobby, FWD.us, is behind the new site. The transparently timed campaign coincides with the tech industry’s last hope to push high-skilled immigration reform through the most unproductive Congress in American history.

“We are Welcome.us, a non-profit dedicated to celebrating a United States that is fueled by an immigrant tradition,” explains the new splash page, populated by supporters, including Zuckerberg and actor Kal Penn. “We’re kicking things off this June with the first ever Immigrant Heritage Month, a nationwide effort to gather and share inspirational stories of immigration in America.”

The dearth of top-notch engineers in Silicon Valley and limited supply of high-skilled visas has made immigration reform the technology industry’s #1 goal. But, Congress has refused to allot more visas without overhauling the entire immigration system. Last year, Zuckerberg’s FWD.us was part of an unsuccessful multi-million dollar push to pass immigration reform.

So now they’re going guerrilla.

The social media-fueled Welcome.us website begins with an interactive graphic that invites people to enter the year when their earliest ancestors “were welcomed in America.” (There’s no mention of what to do if your ancestors were unwelcome invaders, or unwilling slaves.)

Once you’ve entered a date, the site displays a big, bold “Est. 1619” (or whatever date you entered). That graphic can then serve as your Facebook and Twitter avatar, if you like.

As the June primary elections wind down, there is a slight chance that Republicans will have beaten back enough Tea Party challengers to force through a vote on immigration reform in the House of Representatives, without fear of being unseated by extremist challengers. But as I and many others in the press (and Congress) have pointed it, it is unlikely that immigration will be brought to a vote in an election year.

But, the ever-optimistic FWD.us is trying everything within its considerable power to keep the pressure on. Whether or not FWD.us can push through immigration reform for the tech industry anytime in the near future, this latest project may have some legacy power. There are a lot of immigrants. And, like Black History Month, there is good reason to push back against bigotry with an on-going appreciation month.

While some of FWD.us’s past tactics have been questioned by industry leaders, this new one has nothing but an up side. Either it will be completely ineffective or it will prompt people to appreciate immigrants more. Super.

It is unclear what role FWD.us and Zuckerberg will have in this latest project (or where the money is coming from). I reached out to FWD.us and they were not immediately available for comment.

Luck is not on their side, but it might just work. Check out the website here and participate if you feel so inclined.


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