Dylan: Imagine if one day, all of a sudden, you learned that you could no longer visit your family. Or perhaps you could no longer come back to the country where you’ve been working — or trying to start a new company. This is the new reality for thousands of people from seven Muslim-majority countries who have been living and working in the U.S., thanks to the executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. And Boston tech leaders, some of whom have been quiet about Trump before, are now coming out against the temporary immigration ban for the massive disruption and uncertainty it’s causing.
Tom Hopcroft — who represents more than 500 companies and 300K employees in the Massachusetts tech sector as CEO of MassTLC — sent me a statement over the weekend saying that Trump’s executive order is “bad policy, bad for business, which favors mobility of talent and ideas, and bad from a human perspective, as it breaks families apart and creates fear by targeting a specific religious group.” I talked to him on the phone this morning, and he said he’s been having exhaustive phone conversations with his member companies, and that all of the ones he's spoken to so far have expressed various levels of concerns about the policy’s impact. Hopcroft said some of the companies he’s spoken to have employees who are being impacted by the ban, including Carbonite. BBJ also reported that Brightcove has some impacted employees.
“It has a chilling effect on business if you can’t travel,” Hopcroft said. ”If you’re spending time figuring out what your company policy is, or ‘am I impacted by this,’ or ‘what if I get stuck outside the U.S.,’ it’s all time people could use innovating and moving their businesses forward.”
Beyond the impact of the policy itself, the haphazard way Trump’s team created and implemented the order — without the full input of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, as The New York Times reported — has created more uncertainty for Boston tech leaders about what other policies Trump could issue, Hopcroft said. “It’s somewhat baffling,” he added.
Hopcroft said research done for MassTLC by the UMass Donahue Institute shows that about a quarter of the Massachusetts tech sector was made up of foreign-born people in 2015. On a country level, more than half of billion-dollar startups were founded by immigrants, according to a study last year by the National Foundation for American Policy.
Others in the Boston tech community have also spoken up against the ban or issued concerns, including New England Venture Capital Association Executive Director Jody Rose, Carbonite CEO Mohamad Ali, TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer, Brightcove CEO David Mendels, Humanyze CEO Ben Waber and athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush. “We are against this executive order not just because we are a global business with a diverse workforce, but because we are human beings and citizens who respect and love the fabric of our nation,” Kaufer wrote in a LinkedIn post.
Given the global nature of Boston’s innovation economy, we plan to continue reporting on the impact of Trump’s immigration policies. If your company has issued an internal memo to employees about the immigration ban, please get in touch and send us a copy. Also, let us know what you think of how your company is addressing the issue. Our emails are below.