When Trump’s Muslim Ban hit on Friday, protests and expressions of outrage erupted across the nation. One particularly loud voice in this push back has come from the highest levels of the tech sector, places like Google and Apple, among others. In addition to their human reaction of horror at the unnecessarily cruel way in which this order moved from paper to practice, there was a growing realization that this was going to move beyond offending sensibilities and into damaging their bottom line.This doesn’t mean that it’s all about the money. What it does mean is that it cannot be separated from it. With nearly 40% of their employees coming from other countries and with the globally connected nature of production inherent in pushing the boundaries of technology, the effects of this ban would ripple from the $32 billion in value lost by the five top tech companies in the EO’s wake to the distress and sometimes outright loss of their employees.
In addition to those directly affected by inability to travel freely or for those they love to be able to do so, there is something even more corrosive wrapped up in this EO. The message that they, and those like them, are dangerous; a sickness infecting the body of the US, rather than a vital part of its fabric; a rejection and repudiation of any value they hold as human beings. It is difficult to find people who disagree with the notion that a country has a right to administer its own borders, but that was never at issue. The borders are already regulated, the question this order raises is: are these people so inherently antithetical to American institutions and of such little value as to be rejected completely?This type of environment is hardly one in which new minds will wish to participate, so strike the best and brightest of these seven nations from those who lend their services to the advancement of technology in the United States. But this also works against the contributions of those who are already here. This is not the method that paves the way for maintaining a competitive edge and opening the door to creativity and innovation.
I can speak from experience. I have, over the course of my marriage to a man from Mexico, watched as anti-Mexican rhetoric has reached an all-time high. We are, currently, trying to exist as productive members of society in a place that finds Mexicans to be so abhorrent that another EO ordering the building of a wall to keep out the horror has been issued. My children are steeped in the language that defines their father and their heritage as inseparable from illegality, violence, thievery, and inferiority. This does not lead to job creation, it does not lead to the race to the top, it has not for one moment served either my family or those who do not trust us.
While my family is not the driving force behind American job creation, the American tech sector is. The manufacturing jobs that so many are desperately seeking, and that they deserve to have, are most likely not going to be as they traditionally were, making cars and milling steel, but rather in the area of advanced manufacturing. The innovations that lead to these higher-tech jobs will not come only from foreign workers, but neither will they come from a place that excludes and denigrates a large number of its people. We need to gather people in our corner, not pick them off and throw them away one by one. Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute and labor market researcher Gary Burtless expressed dismay over the impacts that this sort of ban will have on the tech industry:
“Immigrant STEM workers have contributed an outsize share to founding new companies, getting patents, and helping build up American companies, which in turn because of their success have created tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of jobs. Discouraging such people to apply for visas to enter the United States to work — I can’t imagine how that can be considered to be in the American national interest.”
The real focus should be on ensuring that our people have the skills, in terms of both expertise and critical/creative thinking, to fill the jobs that are created. This means not just focusing on, but also funding, strong public high schools. It means recognizing that STEM cannot exist as a mere technical training program to make people ready for jobs that exist but must also integrate the arts and humanities so that they can address tasks that have not yet been imagined. It means existing as part of a network and not isolating ourselves on an eroding island. This is something that is clearly recognized by many of the leaders of successful companies ranging from Nike to Facebook. There is greater strength in diversity than in isolation.
As the struggles caused by the Muslim ban, and those set to be unleashed in future EOs by a short-sighted, mean-spirited, and self-centered President, unfold the metaphor of 3D printing the future seems apt: It’s not easy, it is a process of building up rather than removing, it will be frustrating as hell at times, but when it starts to work, it is the closest thing we have to magic. Discuss in the Muslim Ban forum at 3DPB.com.
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