Trump's travel ban is bad for New York business

The nation is certainly divided over President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration, which federal courts have placed on hold. The president's fans love it, and his critics are up in arms. But unease is palpable among city business leaders, especially...

Trump's travel ban is bad for New York business

The nation is certainly divided over President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration, which federal courts have placed on hold. The president's fans love it, and his critics are up in arms. But unease is palpable among city business leaders, especially in the hospitality and technology sectors, that Trump's travel ban will hurt their bottom line. Some have become vocal in their opposition.

The first problem with the order, which barred refugees from everywhere and travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries for several months, was a sudden and sloppy execution that led to confusion, protests and courtroom reversals. Businesses detest uncertainty, and many felt an immediate impact. The Guides Association of New York City's bid to bring an international convention here lost—to Tbilisi, of all places—because of fears that visitors would not get visas. Manhattan restaurateur Tom Colicchio lost a lucrative private-dining reservation because his guests could not enter the country. While Trump might argue that one of Colicchio's would-be patrons might have carried out a deadly terrorist attack on the U.S., not a single visitor from the seven nations nor any refugee ever has.

There was no urgency to change the policy overnight, given the success of visitor screening, which vets refugees for 18 to 24 months and involves 12 to 15 federal agencies. The handful of terrorist incidents since 9/11 have come from Americans who radicalized themselves, some of them angry over perceived slights to Muslims—a scenario that the Muslim-focused bans, even if not restored, might have already made more likely to happen in the future.

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Indeed, the ill will and fear caused by the executive order and the tens of thousands of visa revocations it spawned are reverberating all over the world, not just in the targeted nations, and will last well beyond the 90 or 120 days the order was to remain in effect.

What the Trump administration should have done—and should do now rather than appeal the court rulings—is examine the current vetting process while it continues, as new administrations have done in the past. At the same time, the government should consider the impact any change will have on terrorism and the economy, which Trump has repeatedly promised to improve. Even a cursory survey of hotel and restaurant owners, tech company CEOs, airline executives, convention-center managers and university presidents here in the president's hometown would reveal that the ban might significantly damage their ability to attract foreign customers, students and talent. Hundreds of the city's tech leaders have already registered their objections publicly. Other industries should weigh in as well, privately if they prefer. We can protect our city and nation without damaging businesses. — THE EDITORS

The nation is certainly divided over President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration, which federal courts have placed on hold. The president's fans love it, and his critics are up in arms. But unease is palpable among city business leaders, especially in the hospitality and technology sectors, that Trump's travel ban will hurt their bottom line. Some have become vocal in their opposition.

The first problem with the order, which barred refugees from everywhere and travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries for several months, was a sudden and sloppy execution that led to confusion, protests and courtroom reversals. Businesses detest uncertainty, and many felt an immediate impact. The Guides Association of New York City's bid to bring an international convention here lost—to Tbilisi, of all places—because of fears that visitors would not get visas. Manhattan restaurateur Tom Colicchio lost a lucrative private-dining reservation because his guests could not enter the country. While Trump might argue that one of Colicchio's would-be patrons might have carried out a deadly terrorist attack on the U.S., not a single visitor from the seven nations nor any refugee ever has.

There was no urgency to change the policy overnight, given the success of visitor screening, which vets refugees for 18 to 24 months and involves 12 to 15 federal agencies. The handful of terrorist incidents since 9/11 have come from Americans who radicalized themselves, some of them angry over perceived slights to Muslims—a scenario that the Muslim-focused bans, even if not restored, might have already made more likely to happen in the future.

Indeed, the ill will and fear caused by the executive order and the tens of thousands of visa revocations it spawned are reverberating all over the world, not just in the targeted nations, and will last well beyond the 90 or 120 days the order was to remain in effect.

What the Trump administration should have done—and should do now rather than appeal the court rulings—is examine the current vetting process while it continues, as new administrations have done in the past. At the same time, the government should consider the impact any change will have on terrorism and the economy, which Trump has repeatedly promised to improve. Even a cursory survey of hotel and restaurant owners, tech company CEOs, airline executives, convention-center managers and university presidents here in the president's hometown would reveal that the ban might significantly damage their ability to attract foreign customers, students and talent. Hundreds of the city's tech leaders have already registered their objections publicly. Other industries should weigh in as well, privately if they prefer. We can protect our city and nation without damaging businesses. — THE EDITORS

A version of this article appears in the February 13, 2017, print issue of Crain's New York Business.

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