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Facebook's Zuckerberg calls for U.S. immigration reform

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive during a Facebook press event to introduce 'Home' a series of applications that i
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive during a Facebook press event to introduce 'Home' a series of applications that i

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the U.S. needs to fix a "strange" immigration policy that prevents promising but undocumented students from contributing to the country's future and doesn't provide enough visas for foreign workers with advanced skills.

"We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants. And it's a policy unfit for today's world," the 28-year-old founder of the world's largest Internet social network said in an opinion column in The Washington Post on Thursday.

Comprehensive immigration reform and improvements in the U.S. education system were needed, Zuckerberg said in the article, which formally introduced a new advocacy group of Silicon Valley bigwigs.

FWD.us, which is focused on promoting bipartisan policies to improve the U.S. "knowledge economy," includes technology executives such as Zuckerberg and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, and venture capitalists John Doerr, Reid Hoffman and Jim Breyer.

The group's introduction comes as legislators in Congress are working to draft legislation to reform the country's immigration system.

The supply of H1-B visas, which allow non-U.S. citizens with advanced skills and degrees in "specialty occupations" to work in the country for up to six years, has been a long-running topic of debate in the technology industry.

Many executives argue that universities are not churning out enough American math and science graduates and that they need to cast their net abroad to stay competitive.

Some U.S. tech workers and academics say that the shortage of talent is exaggerated, that many of the jobs could go to out-of-work computer professionals in the United States, and that the program serves mainly as a source of cheap labor.

Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004, has become increasingly active in public policy and philanthropy. In December, he pledged half a billion dollars in Facebook stock to a Silicon Valley charity focused on health and education, and in 2010, he announced plans to give a $100 million gift to the beleaguered public schools of Newark, New Jersey.

Earlier this year, he hosted a fundraiser at his California home for the re-election of New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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