/ Entrepreneurship

Stopping Immigration Means Stopping Innovation

We interviewed the cofounders of SimpleCitizen and the founder of Gumroad to get a sense of how America’s recent change in immigration policy will shape the tech world moving forward.

It’s tough, almost impossible, to keep up with the news coming out of the Trump White House. There are so many shocking developments each day, that I am not longer shocked by my shock. Now I just wake up in the morning expecting an executive order that demands all puppies be deported and for our Commander in Chief to appoint The Hamburglar as Secretary of State. All the stories have started blurring together into a terrifying mess. Except one that still stands out as astonishingly unbelievable.

On January 27, President Trump signed the now infamous executive order that temporarily barred refugees and immigrants from entering the United States. The executive order sent airports and travelers across the country into a vortex of chaos, and the executive order was quickly blocked by a federal judge in Seattle. The Trump administration appealed the Seattle judge’s ruling, but an appeals court panel ruled the freeze on the ban would hold. So approved immigrants and refugees can continue entering the country. For now.

But, the administration has promised a new executive order, and while it may better meet legalese standards, it will no doubt still target immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries, which many believe is counterproductive to fighting terrorism and keeping America thriving.

One of those many is Sam Stoddard, cofounder and CEO of SimpleCitizen. Stoddard and his team launched their Immigration and Refugees Resource Center to help those affected by the EO and provide resources for citizens looking to help those affected. SimpleCitizen is also donating a portion of every application fee to immigrants and refugees.

“We were all pretty surprised with the rest of the nation and world when the executive order was signed. After we really were able to digest it and understand, it was obvious for us that we couldn’t agree with it,” Stoddard says. “We felt we were in a unique position to do something a little bit more and we felt it was our duty to do a little bit more.”

Stoddard explains that there’s quite a bit of misinformation regarding immigration and that he feels his company has a responsibility to help immigrants and refugees, as well as educate those who may be confused. “It’s easy to point to the economic benefit of letting refugees and immigrants into local communities. These people go on to become great contributors to their local economy and community,” he says.

Stoddard’s cofounder, Ayde Soto, immigrated from Mexico to the United States when her husband got a job in Utah. And now she fears she may not be able to see her family for a while. “It is scary for my family in Mexico to come to the USA and maybe not be accepted at the border even when they have a legal Visitor Visa,” Soto says. “You never know when [the government] might say people from Mexico are not allowed. My family told me, ‘We don’t think we will visit you this year’ and that’s sad for me and my family here.”

Gumroad founder Sahil Lavingia is considering running for Congress in the coming election and he too takes issue with the executive order, not just for the inhumanity of it, but for the repercussions it will have — and perhaps has already had on American innovation.

“America is the best country in the world because of our immigration policy,” Lavingia says. “If you can show you are going to be an innovative person, America will take you in. That’s why we have companies like Google, Netflix, and Amazon.” Lavingia worries that if we suddenly become selective in arbitrary ways, America may not be the future of the world. And another country may replace us. “As an American citizen, that worries me the most. What if America is not the leader of the world in 10 years. Do I want China to be the world leader?” Lavingia asks.

Film maker Helena Price sat down with six immigrants living in Silicon Valley to get their thoughts on the executive order for Banned. The overwhelming sentiment is best summed up in this quote from Omid, a former Google employee who now studies at Stanford:

I THINK I CAN OFFER A LOT THROUGH THE THINGS I’VE LEARNED AND MY EXPERIENCE, AND I HAVE TO ASK MYSELF, ‘DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO OFFER THAT HERE IN THIS COUNTRY OR MAYBE GO SOMEWHERE ELSE WHERE I’M MORE WELCOMED? WHY SHOULD I STAY IF PEOPLE HERE DON’T WANT ME?’

Maybe the promised executive order revisions will fix all the problems with the first executive order, but I doubt it. And some damage has already been done. Because good, innovative people will now think twice before bringing their talents to America. That’s bad news for America. And that’s bad news for Utah.

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