N.J. business, political communities react with concern to immigration ban

Anjalee Khemlani//January 30, 2017

N.J. business, political communities react with concern to immigration ban

Anjalee Khemlani//January 30, 2017

Chaos and confusion were the words of the day Monday as lawmakers, civil rights activists and businesses grappled with the effects of President Donald Trump’s seemingly spontaneous ban Friday on immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

The ban is a costly and resource-heavy one with broader economic implications for New Jersey businesses and cities.

The extra screenings by TSA agents and the calls from the Trump administration for local law enforcement to act as immigration officers and be on the lookout for undocumented immigrants, as well as the ongoing fights in various courts, all threaten to tie up significant resources in the country.

In addition, the impact of the people left outside the country, or those hesitant to leave for a short trip, could for the short term impact the airline industry, as well as the productivity of businesses small and large.

Universities are also being impacted, especially those like Rutgers University that have a large immigrant population.

Laurie Woog, who is of counsel on immigration with New Jersey-based law firm Mandelbaum Salsburg, said the long-term effect the ban has on the U.S. higher education system could be a decrease in enrollment from students abroad.

“Who is going to continue to pay tuition and attend these universities if they don’t think they are going to be allowed back in? So the universities are going to lose money, and not just tuition but the benefits of (students’) research in engineering and cancer research,” Woog said.

In addition to higher education, a number of sectors stand to be affected financially by the ban, including the airlines, federal resources for sanctuary cities, federal budget dollars for the TSA, pharmaceutical companies, small businesses, tech startups and health care providers, Woog said.

She has a client whose small business, an alcoholic beverage distribution company, may have to work without its logistics person — an Iraqi native who is a dual citizen in Iraq and France — who is away on vacation. That could cost the company if clients are not receiving their products on time.

Assad Akhter, a Passaic County freeholder, said he saw messages streaming in Saturday of people who may be detained, and ultimately one person from Paterson — a Syrian national with a visa sponsored by the daughter — was detained.

“There was a great level of confusion,” Akhter said. “The customs agents clearly had no idea how to apply these rules or what to do. And they were obviously afraid to bet blamed from Washington (D.C.) for any mistakes they make.”

Could this mean fewer people flying?

Jimmy Nouri, a longtime business owner in Paterson, said no.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who led an event Monday in Latino-heavy Perth Amboy to address the effect of the executive order to build the wall along the southern U.S. border, said it is possible.

“The emphasis has been on the people who got on the planes and came here and were detained, but there were many more who never got on the plane,” Pallone said. “Now, I don’t want to tell people they shouldn’t travel, but he could add other countries.”

Akhter said that, not only is the ban a bad policy on the basis of civil liberties, it is bad for the economy and will have a negative impact on national security.

“I can’t see that the business sector can look at this (and accept) this chaos, especially when this builds more enmity between world trade partners, and other foreign nations, all of this combined is not helpful for strong economic growth,” Akhter said.

“What strikes me is, Iran is on this list. There was a time not too long ago when we were actively working to make Iran more like the U.S.A. We wanted to make Iran more like us. But it seems we are becoming more like Iran. Now you have an overarching government that is trying to issue edicts and orders that seem almost totalitarian,” Akhter said.

This will help feed ISIS propaganda as it begins to share images and news reports of the U.S. cracking down on Muslims.

The point was echoed by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez (both D-N.J.) at a press event Monday in Newark.

“We are playing into the propagandist hands by casting this in the light of a religious war,” Booker said.

Menendez and Booker were joined by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.

Booker said he and Menendez have been working on strategies to defund programs that can be used to enforce the immigration ban, and since the election they and others have been identifying other existing programs that Trump might be able to manipulate and use against minorities and vulnerable populations.

Baraka said the city would fight against the ban, the previous order to defund sanctuary cities and the idea that local law enforcement should be searching for undocumented immigrants within cities.

“We stand by the idea that we are a sanctuary city, we are going to protect our undocumented students in our schools,” Baraka said. “We are going to protect our undocumented residents who own stores and contribute to our economy, who come to work every single day to make our community better. We think that they are part of our family and our community here in the city of Newark. And our police (will not) be used to enforce what we think is unconstitutional. We will not participate in what I have been making analogous to the Fugitive Slave law.”

Fulop, who planned to participate in a protest in his city Monday evening, said the choice for Syrian refugees was not a simple one. He said the city, which has accepted 100 families, budgets $9 million from federal grants to help with its designation as a sanctuary city.

“It’s really a choice of life and death (for Syrians),” he said. “We are really on the right side (of history) here.”