More Than Meets the Eye in Virtual Immigration ‘March’

BY Mallory Sofastaii  May 22, 2013 at 4:45 PM EDT


Tens of thousands of immigration reform supporters marched on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on April 10, 2013. A two-day bipartisan campaign called “March for Innovation” encourages supporters to take a stand online. Photo by Saul Loeb/ AFP/ Getty Images.

Wednesday kicks off a two-day virtual “March for Innovation” in support of immigration reform. The bipartisan effort is spearheaded by Partnership for a New American Economy and co-sponsored by the spinoff of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign Organizing for Action and Republicans for Immigration Reform.

The groups ask supporters to rally lawmakers via social media instead of on the streets of the nation’s capital. The idea is to flood legislators’ inboxes, Facebook walls, and Twitter mentions with a simple message: pass immigration reform. It launches just after the overhaul legislation written by four Republicans and four Democrats sailed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It heads to the Senate floor the first week of June for what is expected to be a lengthy debate.

Throughout the “virtual march,” online events will be held on Huffington Post Live, Google Hangout, Twitter Town Halls (one hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger), Facebook, Reddit, Livestream, and others to drive supporters to contact their elected officials.

The focus of the Partnership (led by co-chair New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and more than 500 other mayors and CEOs) is to advocate for legislation aimed at attracting and retaining the world’s brightest talent to fuel innovation that creates American jobs, the group says. The main concern of Silicon Valley executives is the brain drain and looming shortage of qualified workers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

The bigger picture, of course, is the president’s political arm taking up a major cause ahead of the landmark debate on the issue. Organizing for Action, the nonprofit group formed to support the president’s agenda, debuted its first video in a web series last Thursday. The “American Stories” series shares the personal stories of immigrants and how they’ve been affected by the current policy. The video featured Convo.com founder Faizen Buzdar and his struggle to expand his technology business in the U.S.

The group has reportedly collected 7,000 immigrant stories and a million signatures from people who want to see the immigration reform bill passed. In addition to holding weekly conference calls about how to support the overhaul effort, OFA is urging supporters to participate in the #iMarch and to engage lawmakers anyway they can.

Here are details about the March for Innovation, and the event schedule through Thursday.