Local, national businesses give views on immigration ban

 
 
Updated 1/30/2017 7:03 PM
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  • Protesters marched at O'Hare International Airport Sunday against President Donald Trump's ban on allowing some refugees into the United States. Some business leaders say such a ban would affect their workforces.

      Protesters marched at O'Hare International Airport Sunday against President Donald Trump's ban on allowing some refugees into the United States. Some business leaders say such a ban would affect their workforces. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Todd Thibodeaux

    Todd Thibodeaux

  • Achour Esho

    Achour Esho

Achour Esho, owner and founder of Palatine-based FLO Fitness and Martial Arts, remembers how he and his family escaped persecution in Syria in 1984.

They were Christians who believed coming to the U.S. would provide a safer future.

"They killed my mom's uncle and others. We were running from people who were trying to kill us," said Esho, 36. "We're not trying to bomb anything here."

Esho, a boxer and businessman who became a U.S. citizen in 1988, joined other business leaders who spoke out Monday about President Trump's executive order on immigration.

"There could be stricter guidelines, but not a total ban," Esho said. "It's not what the United States is all about."

A suburban association of tech professionals and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, along with other national and international corporations, expressed concern that the ban threatens the free flow of workers and commerce.

Downers Grove-based CompTIA, or Computing Technology Industry Association, a global association for tech professionals, is "concerned" about the ban.

"The safety and prosperity of the United States rests not only on sensible border security measures but in equal measure on the integration of diverse peoples that bring cultural, educational, scientific, and religious perspectives and knowledge that strengthen the fabric of our society," said CompTIA President and CEO Todd Thibodeaux. "We feel this most profoundly in the tech industry, where so many iconic American companies -- and major employers -- such as Intel, Sun Microsystems, eBay, Yahoo! and Google were all founded, at least in part, by foreign nationals."

The ban took effect with little warning and lacked clarity, Thibodeaux said.

"(It) seems to even impact individuals that are lawful permanent residents of our nation," Thibodeaux said. "The tech industry stands ready to work with the administration to advance our national economic and security interests; but we hope we can do so in ways that are true to our American values."

Fermilab spokeswoman Katie Yurkewicz was concerned about keeping good relations with countries at the heart of the ban.

"Particle research is a global endeavor," she said. "And our work really relies on being able to keep positive and productive relationships with countries around the world. We really have to wait and see what these executive orders will mean for our ability to collaborate. We already make a huge amount of use of technology to collaborate with other countries ... we will continue to do so."

At Argonne National Laboratory near Darien, no employees plan to travel to the effected countries at least through July, "so at the moment it doesn't affect us," said spokesman Christopher Kramer.

Apple's Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla's Elon Musk, and CEOs of other industries from finance to autos started to grapple with the order's reach as the implications began to set in for multinational companies.

Jeff Immelt, General Electric Co.'s chairman and CEO, wrote in an internal email that GE has "many employees from the named countries" who are "critical to our success and they are our friends and partners." GE, he said, would "continue to make our voice heard with the new administration."

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said in a voicemail Sunday to employees that Trump's move threatens "disruption to the firm" and is "not a policy we support." MasterCard Inc. CEO Ajay Banga, citing his own status as immigrant, said the order caused "fracture in our society." Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Mark Fields issued a joint statement Monday saying they didn't support the directive.

The order set new barriers of entry into the U.S. for people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. Refugees, visa holders and permanent U.S. residents were among those affected, at least initially.

Trump said in an interview Friday that Syrian Christians like Esho would be given priority to enter the United States, but CNN and others reported Sunday that Syrian Christian families were turned away.

Three U.S. court orders were issued blocking parts of the plan and White House aides sought to minimize the impact of the order on Monday after allies from the United Kingdom to Germany condemned the move.

•Daily Herald Reporter Kerry Lester and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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