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Trump’s Muslim ban is a war on tech

Preston Gralla | Feb. 7, 2017
Immigration has helped the U.S. tech industry, but it’s not just self-interest that’s causing the industry to fight the ban

This issue is personal for me. I’m Jewish, and my grandparents all emigrated from Poland and Russia. After Trump issued his order, I reread an interview one of my uncles did with my paternal grandfather about how he had desperately crossed borders and continents to get here in the early 1920s, hopscotching from Poland to Germany to Belgium to the Netherlands to Mexico, paying smugglers along the way, before managing to make his way into the U.S. Back then, Europe was in crisis after World War I, awash in refugees looking for safe harbor, just as the Middle East is today. Change my grandfather’s religion and the geography he crossed, and you’ll find that his story is being played out today countless times. Look into your own family history. There’s a good chance you’ll find similar stories.

My grandfather came to a nation that tried to ban him, just as Trump’s administration is doing to Muslims. The Immigration Act of 1924 targeted Jews by restricting immigration into the U.S. from countries that had large numbers of Jewish emigrants wanting to come here. It also banned Asians and restricted immigration from Italy and Slavic countries. When I was growing up decades later, however, I thought we had left that kind of racism and religious targeting behind. Clearly, I was wrong.

My grandfather made his life here as a baker. But many of his descendants have gravitated toward the STEM fields. We’re scientists, tech journalists, engineers, developers and other tech professionals — exactly the kind of people who helped build America’s scientific and technology dominance.

Many of the people Trump wants to ban are in the STEM fields as well. In Massachusetts, where I live, at least two MIT students, one from Syria and one from Iraq, weren’t allowed back into the country. An Iranian Ph.D. student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute was banned as well. Two professors of engineering at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth were initially banned from re-entering the U.S. because they are Iranian. Eventually, lawyers intervened and they were let in.

All this shows that Trump’s Muslim ban is an assault on technology as well as the Constitution. That’s one reason the tech industry is fighting back. But another reason is that it’s the right thing to do.

 

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