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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
“I’m concerned.”
OPEN DOORS

Mark Zuckerberg: The US “is a nation of immigrants, and we should be proud of that”

By Alison Griswold

Facebook’s leaders are finally breaking their silence on the new US president.

On Friday afternoon, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a short essay in defense of immigrants and refugees. “The United States is a nation of immigrants, and we should be proud of that,” he wrote, noting that his own ancestors came from Germany, Austria, and Poland, and that his wife’s were refugees from China and Vietnam. “Like many of you,” he continued, “I’m concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders signed by President Trump.”

US president Donald Trump this week signed three executive actions on immigration, moving forward on campaign promises to deport undocumented immigrants, build a wall between the US and Mexico, and carry out ”extreme vetting” of visa seekers from predominantly Muslim countries. One of those orders cuts federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities that shield illegal immigrants from deportation, and directs the secretary of Homeland Security to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants and the cities that protect them.

“We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Expanding the focus of law enforcement beyond people who are real threats would make all Americans less safe by diverting resources, while millions of undocumented folks who don’t pose a threat will live in fear of deportation.”

Zuckerberg’s comments come one day after Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also spoke out against Trump, condemning action he took on Jan. 23 to ban the US from funding nongovernmental organizations that perform or promote abortion. The policy, started under Reagan and a favorite of Republican administrations, has been dubbed the “global gag rule” because it essentially prevents the US from contributing to any NGOs that even mention abortion, many of which provide basic reproductive health care to women.

“This ban is harsher and broader than past orders by past presidents, because it covers every program that falls under global health assistance,” Sandberg wrote. “That means it’ll hurt more people. We don’t have to guess—we know what this will do. The last time the global gag rule was in effect, research showed more women who lost access to contraception had unwanted pregnancies and abortion rates doubled.”

While Silicon Valley (Peter Thiel notwithstanding) vocally opposed Trump during his campaign, tech leaders have been eerily quiet on the new US president since his victory in November. Sandberg was among the dozen-odd company reps who met with Trump in mid-December, ostensibly to discuss technology and innovation under the new administration. (She sat to the right of vice president and abortion opponent Mike Pence). Many of the Valley’s biggest and most powerful companies stand to gain from Trump’s pro-business policies, despite their overwhelming disagreement with him on social issues.

Here’s Zuckerberg’s full Facebook post:

My great grandparents came from Germany, Austria and Poland. Priscilla’s parents were refugees from China and Vietnam. The United States is a nation of immigrants, and we should be proud of that.

Like many of you, I’m concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders signed by President Trump.

We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat. Expanding the focus of law enforcement beyond people who are real threats would make all Americans less safe by diverting resources, while millions of undocumented folks who don’t pose a threat will live in fear of deportation.

We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help. That’s who we are. Had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscilla’s family wouldn’t be here today.

That said, I was glad to hear President Trump say he’s going to “work something out” for Dreamers—immigrants who were brought to this country at a young age by their parents. Right now, 750,000 Dreamers benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows them to live and work legally in the US. I hope the President and his team keep these protections in place, and over the next few weeks I’ll be working with our team at FWD.us to find ways we can help.

I’m also glad the President believes our country should continue to benefit from “people of great talent coming into the country.”

These issues are personal for me even beyond my family. A few years ago, I taught a class at a local middle school where some of my best students were undocumented. They are our future too. We are a nation of immigrants, and we all benefit when the best and brightest from around the world can live, work and contribute here. I hope we find the courage and compassion to bring people together and make this world a better place for everyone.