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Zuckerberg donates $5M to scholarship fund for undocumented immigrants

Facebook CEO calls the donation an "investment" in 400 undocumented students in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg donates $5 million to a scholarship fund for undocumented students. James Martin/CNET

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have made a $5 million donation to a scholarship fund that helps undocumented immigrants attend college.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Zuckerberg called the donation to TheDream.US fund an "investment" toward creating scholarships for more than 400 undocumented students in the San Francisco Bay Area during the next five years. Noting that many young immigrants attend school legally in the US, Zuckerberg said a lack of documentation is often a stumbling block to a college education and federal aid.

"America was founded as a nation of immigrants," Zuckerberg wrote in his post announcing the donation. "We ought to welcome smart and hardworking young people from every nation, and to help everyone in our society achieve their full potential. If we help more young immigrants climb the ladder to new opportunities, then our country will make greater progress."

A longtime proponent of immigration reform, Zuckerberg argued in 2013 that changes to immigration and visa policy were necessary to boost the US economy and job market. In March of that year, he was part of a group of tech executives that sent a letter to President Barack Obama that said the system hampers hiring and R&D due to visa shortages, green card delays, and issues that arise when employees have family members who would also need to gain residency.

Founded in 2013 by former Washington Post publisher Don Graham and Bill Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, among others, The Dream provides $25,000 in scholarship aid to help undocumented students earn bachelor's degrees at national partner colleges.

In specifying the donation's focus, Zuckerberg said he and his wife "wanted to help extend their efforts in the Bay Area as part of our ongoing efforts to support social and economic programs in our local community."

While hefty, the donation pales in comparison to others made by Zuckerberg, who is part of a campaign led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett to get the richest people in the US to donate most of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Zuckerberg's first major project was giving $100 million in Facebook stock to public schools in Newark, N.J., in 2010. Two years later, Zuckerberg pledged 18 million Facebook shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, a donation that at the time was worth nearly $500 million.