Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose campaign for US immigration reform seemed on the verge of stalling out a few months ago, has waded back into the thorny political issue with a $5 million charitable gift that’s quickly become its own topic of debate.
In a Facebook post to his nearly 32.7 million followers, Zuckerberg announced that he and his wife, Priscilla, would be donating the money to thedream.us, a scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students in the US.
“America was founded as a nation of immigrants,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We ought to welcome smart and hardworking young people from every nation, and to help everyone in our society achieve their full potential.”
In 2013, Zuckerberg headlined a group of A-list Silicon Valley executives in funding a $50 million campaign to advocate for comprehensive reform. The effort seemed to focus mostly on an issue that these executives—whose views span the entire political spectrum—could agree on: that the US should approve more visas for highly skilled immigrants.
They didn’t get very far. With Congress at loggerheads, US president Barack Obama bypassed both Capitol Hill and Silicon Valley in signing a landmark executive order this past November. His measures focused mainly on lower skilled immigrants, though—not on the highly skilled ones that companies like Facebook are interested in hiring.
With this new donation, Zuckerberg has reentered the ring from a new angle. Many Republicans party have vocally opposed the DREAM Act, the proposed legislation to grant citizenship to undocumented students—so called DREAMers—in the US. (The acronym stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.)
Zuckerberg’s Facebook post has drawn nearly 4,000 comments in five hours and has gotten more than 65,000 likes, but not all of his “friends” were amused. The commenters included many critics who chastised him for supporting undocumented immigrants, with one writing that the donation is another example of the US prioritizing immigrants over “people that actually live here” and another warning readers, in a seeming non sequitur, to not forget 9/11.
This is not the first of Zuckerberg’s high-profile donations; in a highly controversial announcement in 2010, the Facebook founder and CEO donated $100 million to the public school system of Newark, New Jersey.