Walk down University Avenue in Palo Alto, the “Main Street” of Silicon Valley, and you’ll easily hear seven or ten different languages spoken. Those speakers come from all over the world to launch companies, create jobs, invest in America. America has always attracted the best and the brightest, the most eager, from around the world. But Donald Trump’s recent travel ban threatens to silence those voices, divert those eager immigrants, reduce their economic impact. And that’s bad news for entrepreneurs and small businesses, whether in Silicon Valley or Sioux Falls.
Why would a travel ban, limited to seven countries, threaten your small business? How could it stifle your entrepreneurial aspirations?
Because Trump’s travel ban is likely to reduce immigration, inhibit foreign visitors, and make American businesspeople less welcome abroad, all damaging the overall US economy.
“I’m here because I’m a refugee,” Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, was reported to have said when he was seen joining travel ban protestors at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, January 28.
Yes, Google, along with more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies, was founded by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant. Those companies employ over 3.6 million Americans. In 2010, immigrant business owners were responsible for 15% of all business revenues in the US, $121.2 billion.
Those companies, and their employees, have spawned a lot of new small businesses. Google itself employs over 60,000 people, who in turn use the services of many small businesses. Google is almost certainly the number one advertising medium for small businesses. In your town or city, there are probably dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of people who owe their business or job, directly or indirectly, to Google.
That’s just one company founded by an immigrant. Steve Jobs’ biological father was a Syrian refugee. Imagine how much economic impact Apple and Pixar have had on America. Immigrants have had similar impact in virtually every industry.
Immigrants are driving new job creation in the US. Immigrants, starting businesses at almost double the rate of non-immigrants, according to a 2012 Kauffman Foundation study.
All over America, people owe their jobs, their businesses to immigrants.. It’s likely that many of your customers and vendors are immigrants. As immigrants feel unwelcome and afraid, they stop coming, stop starting or funding businesses, they stop spending.
It’s important to understand how this travel ban is seen by all immigrants, even those living and working legally in the United States for decades.
Fear and uncertainty is a reasonable response. Trump’s Executive Order was enacted quickly, without review by the Homeland Security Department. The selection of the seven countries appears arbitrary: no acts of US domestic terrorism arose from nationals of those countries. It applies to those with legal, permanent resident status as well as students and visitors.
Such a unilateral and unreasonable travel ban inhibits visitors to the United States, with almost certain negative effects on the hospitality industry, an industry dominated by small businesses. Hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, tour guides: all suffer as tourism diminishes. And the CEO of one of the leading hospitality companies, Expedia, is himself an Iranian refugee, who could be caught up in Trump’s travel ban.
Trump’s impulsive, chaotic manner is also unsettling to businesspeople.
The thing everyone in business wants from politicians is neither right or left, Republican or Democrat. What they want more than anything is certainty. An impulsive, thoughtless President is more than worrisome.
Through this travel ban, Trump is doing serious damage toward the goodwill Americans have enjoyed when doing business and traveling abroad. We are, almost overnight, seen as unreliable, capricious, narrow-minded. Small business owners in particular understand that goodwill is critical to be able to do good business.
That’s why business leaders – on the right and the left – Democrat and Republican — have spoken out against Trump’s travel ban. Why it’s not surprising that in response to Trump’s travel ban and behavior, the stock market dropped.
Perhaps most importantly, Trump’s travel ban undermines the American values that help hold us together as a nation. We are a nation of immigrants, who welcome immigrants and celebrate immigrants.
“On every level: moral, humanitarian, economic, logical,” tweeted Aaron Levie, CEO of document sharing company Box, “this ban is wrong and is completely antithetical to the principles of America.”
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2017
This article originally ran in USA Today on February 5, 2017