127, mostly tech, companies have signed a brief of support opposing US President Trump’s “Muslim travel ban”. The companies, that include Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Tesla have filed an “amicus brief” with the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in support of US District Judge James L. Robart who ordered a stay on Trump’s executive order to ban anyone from 7 countries from entering the US for between 90 and 120 days.
The tech companies have argued that immigration is a central factor in the history and makeup of the US and has helped fuel American innovation and economic growth. Immigrants, or their children, founded more than 200 companies that are amongst the top 500 companies in the US. Between 2006 and 2010, immigrants were responsible for opening 28% of call new businesses in the US. Thirty percent of US Nobel laureates in Chemistry, Medicine and Physics have been immigrants.
Mostly however, the brief focuses on the harm that its chaotic implementation will have on US companies. They allege:
“The Order makes it more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world’s best employees. It disrupts ongoing business operations. And it threatens companies’ ability to attract talent, business, and investment to the United States.
The consequences of this action will be that US companies will lose business and ultimately
“Multinational companies will have strong incentives, including from their own employees, to base operations outside the United States or to move or hire employees and make investments abroad.”
This last is no idle threat. In 2015, it was estimated that US companies have US $2.1 trillion overseas that haven’t been repatriated because of the tax implications. Apple alone has over US $230 billion held outside the US.
The idea of using this money to set up development and further manufacturing capabilities outside the US makes a great deal of sense, even without the imperative of Trump’s actions. However, there is another move that Trump is threatening that may make the decision to move operations outside the US more attractive still.
Trump’s administration is planning to target the high-skilled worker’s H-1B visa. This offers mostly tech companies the ability to recruit up to 85,000 skill developers and other staff from around the world. According to the Republicans and Trump however, tech companies should be recruiting locally.
Companies like Microsoft, where I have first hand experience of recruitment experience, did actively try and recruit within the US. Recruiting from outside is generally more expensive and time consuming and so there is no real reason why tech companies would actively ignore domestic applicants or favour foreign ones. Tech companies seek to employ the best people for the job and if the pool is global, that is how they achieve that goal.
Having offices remotely distributed can be made to work although it makes communications across teams and different product areas more challenging than if they are all in a single location. However, it already happens in most tech companies with Google and Microsoft already having research and product development occurring out of countries like Australia, India and China.
As outlined in the amicus brief, Trump is sowing uncertainty and chaos with his desire to treat policy like tweets on Twitter. That is going to provide enough incentive for companies to brave the potential disapproval from Trump and use the significant investments held outside the US to expand their capabilities.
Trump may succeed, contrary to his intentions, in catalysing a new phase in globalisation in which companies shift their centres from the US to a more distributed model. Of course, companies may still run into problems if Trump’s brand of nationalism succeeds in taking hold in other countries like Australia or Europe.
The other side-effect of the US uncertainty is the fact that increasingly businesses based outside the US will have a competitive advantage and customers may decide that it is easier to avoid doing business with the US for at least the next four years. China is rapidly becoming the technological equal of the US in many ways and so its ascendancy may also benefit.
The amicus curiae brief is the start of a long legal campaign which will aim to keep the worst of Trump’s plans in check. Depending on the outcomes, the world outside the US may actually benefit from Trump if companies are forced to look outside the walls, real and virtual, he is seeking to create.
US President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration fundamentally alters decades of bipartisan US practice. It blocks immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and stops all refugee resettlement for at least 120 days.
Trump’s justification for the order is:
… the US must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.
The first element includes blocking any immigration from seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for at least 30 days.
The first day after the order was approved dual citizens and US permanent residents – usually called green card holders – were prevented from boarding flights to the US and even detained on arrival. A temporary injunction has provided at least some protections, though it is being applied patchily and only to those people who have already entered the US.
The order also suspends all refugee admissions for a minimum of 120 days. After that the US will still admit only nationals of countries where the government has “procedures [that] are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the US”.
In a continuation of current congressional practice, the US will also prioritise refugee claims based on religious-based persecution, where the person is a member of a minority religion in their own country. And no Syrian refugees will be admitted until the US refugee admissions program aligns with the national interest.
Finally, the US will limit the number of refugees it admits in 2017 to 50,000. So, what does this all mean for refugees?
The UN Refugee Convention provides refugees with a strong set of rights. However, it applies only when a refugee is within a signatory country’s territory or jurisdiction. The convention does not oblige any signatory to accept other refugees.
However, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) considers resettlement to be one of three “durable solutions” for refugees, alongside voluntary repatriation and integration in a host community. These solutions enable refugees to live their lives in dignity and peace.
The UNHCR has determined, in most cases, that the people awaiting resettlement are refugees. Resettlement is used especially in cases where a refugee’s:
… life, liberty, safety, health, or fundamental human rights are at risk in their country of refuge.
Thus resettlement can be critical to provide refugees with protection.
Resettlement also has important geostrategic implications. It helps, as several former US government officials have noted, support the stability of allies that are struggling to host large numbers of refugees.
Similarly, in a call with Trump on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly argued that:
… the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion.
The US resettlement program has long had strong bipartisan support. But it is also critical to global refugee resettlement. The US takes in by far the most resettled refugees of any country. Canada and Australia are a distant second and third.
The justification for the shutdown is to improve the US’s own security measures by introducing, as Trump has previously argued, “extreme vetting”.
But this already exists for resettled refugees. As part of the Refugee Admissions Program, individual refugee cases are screened through a seven-step process, including security and background checks, personal interviews with agents from the US Department of Homeland Security, and other measures. This process can take up to two years.
This system has worked; virtually no terrorist attacks on US soil have been caused by refugees. As a September 2016 report by the Cato Institute, a right-leaning think-tank, noted:
The chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion per year.
Similarly, in 2015, a State Department spokesperson said of the nearly 785,000 refugees admitted to the US since 2001:
Only about a dozen – a tiny fraction of 1% of admitted refugees – have been arrested or removed from the US due to terrorism concerns that existed prior to their resettlement in the US. None of them were Syrian.
Trump’s ban will also have two wider effects.
It appears not to be affecting the November agreement between Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, to resettle refugees from Nauru and Manus Island in the US in exchange for Australia accepting a group of Central American refugees. Many of those on Nauru and Manus Island come from Iran, Iraq and Somalia.
The Australian government remains keen for the deal to go ahead. But US Republican politicians have previously been critical of the deal. Republican congressman Brian Babin said earlier this month he was confident that Trump:
… will do everything in his power to put an immediate stop to this secret Australian-US refugee deal that should have simply never happened in the first place.
But in a phone call between Trump and Turnbull on Sunday, Trump appears to have given assurances the deal would still go ahead. The order gives the power to the secretary of homeland security to continue to admit refugees for resettlement on a case-by-case basis, irrespective of the wider shutdown.
Globally, the shutdown will have lasting and detrimental effects for refugees. In the Middle East, it may prove to be a boon to the Islamic State. The terrorist group has long sought to disrupt refugee movements.
The ban will also put more pressure on refugee-hosting countries. About 90% of the world’s refugees are in the developing world. The international refugee system works through burden-sharing: host countries know that at least some refugees will be resettled and that they will receive financial assistance for the refugees from the UNHCR and other organisations and governments.
Trump’s move challenges this directly, and will likely lead to further restrictions on the ability of refugees to receive basic protections.
The links below are to articles reporting on persecution in Sudan (the most recent are at the top).
The links below are to articles reporting on persecution news from Sudan (the most recent are at the top).
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The link below is to an article that looks at how persecution has failed in Iran.
The links below are to articles reporting on persecution news from Iran (the most recent are at the top).
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The links below are to articles reporting on persecution news from Uganda (the most recent are at the top).
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The links below are to articles reporting on persecution and ISIS news from Iraq and Syria (the most recent are at the top).
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