February 23, 2024
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Dubroff: Trump’s immigration ban could derail innovation in America


Henry Dubroff

Henry Dubroff

Innovation happens in the most surprising ways.

And history shows that some of America’s greatest innovators are immigrants.

Recently, many of these immigrant-entrepreneurs are refugees like Intel’s Andy Grove, whose family left Hungary after the USSR cracked down.

Or the kids of refugees — think Steve Jobs, whose dad was from Syria. Most of them came to the United States for one thing: freedom.

What happens in America is that it presents the immigrant with a unique set of opportunities — stable laws, access to capital and great universities — to fuel innovation.

What troubles me most about the Trump administration’s hastily conceived crackdown on immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries is that one of its consequences — intended or not — risks crushing the innovative spirit that makes America the greatest country on the planet.

That’s why many of California’s top tech companies — some after considerable prodding by their employees — have taken a stand against major provisions of the Trump administration’s executive order.

At press time, the 9th District U.S. Court of Appeals was still weighing whether to suspend the order while a court process plays out. And it has a difficult balancing act; weighing the risks of terrorists disguised as refugees gaining entrance to the country versus the constitutional rights of people caught up in its ban on immigration.

But there is a third dimension to all this — people who want to choose America don’t always have time to study the legalities involved in the battle between the courts and the administration.

They come because America stands for something — a certain amount of predictability in your daily life, an opportunity for economic advancement, the ability to speak your mind on issues of the day and the chance to worship freely as you wish.

Those are the things that have attracted immigrants to our country for decades. In the Tri-Counties, some of them have been highly successful. In recent decades our region has welcomed the innovations produced by Anant Yardi, who hails from India; Heine Zeini, from Pakistan; Angel Martinez, a refugee from the Castro regime in Cuba; and many others.

Even some conservative legal scholars are coming around to the view that the Trump administration’s executive order feels too much like a power grab that’s aimed at working around the Congress. The executive branch has plenty of authority to put new procedures into place to vet potential visa holders without imposing an outright ban.

What Trump was elected to do was to advance the role of accountability in government by draining the swamp of influence peddling. He was elected to shrink the influence of government on the lives of everyday people by revamping Obamacare, streamlining regulation and reforming the tax code.

Instead it feels like government is just getting bigger and nastier and more negative about the future. Immigrants flocked to the U.S. and created many great companies because they saw America as a hopeful, optimistic place — not a country dominated by fear.

Let’s stick to the job at hand — unleashing the power of America’s entrepreneurs — and let the vast systems we’ve built for gathering data and intelligence sort out who might or might not be a terror threat

• Reach Editor Henry Dubroff at hdubroff@pacbiztimes.com.