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Trump immigration ban means a war with tech

Patrick Thibodeau | Jan. 30, 2017
The visa ban unveiled Friday by the president may hit high-skilled Iranians the hardest.

The decision by President Donald Trump to impose a broad immigration ban on seven countries may have an impact he didn't foresee.

The ban, a 90-day moratorium on admissions and re-entry in the United States unveiled on Friday, isn't about H-1B visa-holders specifically. And it doesn't grow out of the his voiced concerns about the use of that visa to displace U.S. workers. Instead it affects tourists, business and student visas. Those with permanent residency, or green cards, are also affected.

Trump's ban, issued through an executive order, affects all visa types in seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The action is ostensibly intended as an anti-terrorism measure. It targets some, but not all, Muslim-majority countries; Saudi Arabia, for instance, is not on the list.

Aside from inflaming civil liberties groups, sparking court fights and spontaneous demonstrations last night at various U.S. airports, the move is also giving the tech industry a renewed voice and a rallying point on immigration. This comes at the same time the Trump administration is expected to begin pushing for H-1B reforms.

Among those speaking out was Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, whose Twitter feed included a steady stream of retweets critical of Trump's action.

"The Executive Order's humanitarian and economic impact is real and upsetting. We benefit from what refugees and immigrants bring to the U.S.," wrote Dorsey, and "This EO goes against our principles."

The tech leaders looked beyond the seven-country ban to make a broad push for immigration reform. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urged Trump to help the "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."

A federal court ruled late Saturday that the U.S. could not deport citizens of the banned countries who had already arrived in the U.S. It was prompted by a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Trump's move was put into place so fast it literally affected people in transit.

"This was done with almost no notice," said Carl Shusterman, a Los Angeles-based immigration attorney. He said his office received a leaked draft of the executive order last Tuesday and began advising people about what was in the pipeline.

"I think this is causing a lot of chaos for really no reason at all," said Shusterman.

Trump's order prompted tech firms to scramble to locate and notify affected employees, and to issue statements over the weekend.

"As an immigrant and as a CEO, I've both experienced and seen the positive impact that immigration has on our company, for the country, and for the world," wrote Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a posting on LinkedIn on Saturday. "We will continue to advocate on this important topic."


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