Trump’s revised travel ban may still hurt tech

The real impact may be its chilling effect

President Donald Trump signs an executive order to impose tighter vetting
Credit: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Donald Trump's revised travel ban, released Monday, ensures that H-1B visa workers from banned countries won't have problems as long as they stay in the U.S. But if they take a trip abroad, they could have trouble returning.

The changes unveiled today are technical, and immigration attorneys will be waiting for the U.S. State Department to clarify the rules. In the meantime, what may be a greater issue is how the move by Trump affects immigration and travel.

"The real impact will be global in terms of how people perceive the U.S.," said William Stock, an immigration attorney and president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Stock said he is already aware of academic conferences that are being scheduled outside the U.S., and he believes the ban will prompt foreign students to think twice about applying to U.S. schools.

Trump removed Iraq from the list of banned countries in the new executive order. Affected countries are Iran, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Sudan. The ban begins March 16, will be in effect for 90 days and can be extended. It does not apply to individuals who are already in the U.S. lawfully before it goes into effect.

The tech industry broadly opposed the administration's first attempt at a ban, unveiled in January. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson was among those who filed a lawsuit against that initial effort and won a stay in appeals court. His pushback had support from tech firms.

In a tweet a few hours after Trump issued his latest order, Ferguson said: "It will take a few days to gauge how new order may harm Washington businesses, universities, etc."

The ban may still lead to a court fight. The initial order was largely seen as a Muslim ban because it prioritized, on the basis of religious persecution, Christians over Muslims.

Stock said it will be harder, but not impossible, for a court "to take shots at" the latest restrictions. The courts will look at the previous record and may conclude this is "Muslim ban 3.0," he said.

Andrew Greenfield, an immigration attorney and managing partner of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy's Washington office, said the new ban is less vague than the first one, but it still raises questions.

Permanent residents from banned countries can enter the U.S., and individuals who are in the green card process and need to travel can do so under a document called an advanced parole.

But people who are exempt from the ban -- but need a new visa to return to the United States -- might face problems while it is in effect. It's unclear how the U.S. consulate will adjudicate a visa in these cases, said Greenfield.

"I am advising clients conservatively that if you have someone in the United States on an H-1B from Syria, or any one of these countries, and their visa has expired, they should not travel abroad," said Greenfield.

They need to first see whether the State Department clarifies their status, he said.

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