By Nuri Katz
After President Trump signed his executive order to restrict immigration and foreign travel to the US, protests erupted nationwide. This order created a metaphorical wall around the US, separating us from allies and enemies alike. Its creation lacked advanced notice as well as transparency, leading to a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding among immigration officials attempting to carry out this order. Families were divided, tourism and businesses were disrupted and even students looking to return to university were barred from entrance.
Nuri Katz is president at Apex Capital Partners, a leading global investment advisory firm specializing in investment consulting and wealth management for multinational, high-net-worth clients
From the outside looking in, Trump’s decision to sign this order is just the beginning of a new American reality show. Intent on provoking shock and awe, Trump purposefully induced mayhem or as Sean Spicer called it “hysteria" in America for the world audience.
The president created this reality show, not for security reasons, but to distract Americans from his true motives. Reading carefully the text of the executive order, any reasonable person versed in immigration matters and with just the slightest knowledge of due diligence procedures can clearly understand that this executive order does nothing to make America safer.
As an American helping individuals obtain second citizenship, these barriers are disparaging. While temporary, it is divisive as it singles out a sect of people from what Trump calls the “Muslim majority countries”: Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq – and individuals with dual citizenships from these countries are banned as well. It is no wonder that, since Trump’s election win, the amount of calls coming into my office from Americans interested in securing a second passport in the Caribbean or permanent residency in Canada has increased exponentially. Americans are unsure about their futures and interested in their potential escape options.
For over two decades, I’ve been working to help individuals with immigration and passport acquisition, so I am no stranger to the US immigration screening process. The current process takes years of interviews, tests and valid references. It is not easy to become an American or establish legitimate residency, but still foreigners choose to come to the US to achieve the American dream of freedom and success. So, I asked myself what was the purpose of signing an order like this? With no imminent threat, what does an order like this accomplish?
After reviewing Trump’s order, it seems to me that the intended purpose of this disruption in travel and immigration is in an attempt to overhaul the American visa, immigration, and refugee system. What this order does is suspends entry from Muslim majority countries until the government is able to determine the “appropriate” new safety guidelines for US admission.
Section 3(b) of the order could lead to a permanent ban on entry of people, including refugees, from the countries specified. Unfortunately, section 5(b) of the order makes another glaring and anti-Muslim statement by changing the refugee acceptance policy. Refugees are defined as those with a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
It seems looking at this section that Trump has decided to prioritize the acceptance of Christian refugees only. This is truly where the idea of the Muslim ban comes into play. The fact that Trump and his administration are now prioritizing religious immigration, in conjunction with getting rid of the Johnson Amendment, solidifies that his efforts to bring religion back into the core of American politics and society, all while keeping those of other faiths at a safe distance.
What is additionally striking about this executive order is that it prevents the average person from entering our country under already strict vetting processes, yet it does not mention the United States own express pathway to citizenship: the EB-5 Investor Immigrant program.
In exchange for investing at least $500,000 in a project or $1 million in a wealthier enclave with a promise to create jobs, foreign business people receive a two-year visa to come to the United States. In a report conducted in 2015, the investigative branch of Congress (the Government Accountability Office) found that the EB-5 program had a history of applications that contained high risk fraud cases or counterfeit documentation.
In a hypocritical twist, Trump branded projects have benefited from this controversial immigration order. The Trump Bay Street luxury rental property in Jersey City, NJ is currently being built by Trump’s son-in-law and newly minted member of the administration, Jared Kushner, and has raised over $50 million, with about a quarter of its backing through EB-5 investors.
Trump continues to push this travel ban as a security necessity while not addressing at all a current program that has proved to attract blatantly fraudulent investors whose motives often do not have the best interest of the American people in mind.
Most of the wealthy EB-5 investors come from China, a country not affected at all by the ban but certainly many come from the Middle East, including Iran. As long as investors can still come to this country on EB-5 visas and unfairly charge on a path to citizenship because of their wealth, this executive order will remain a clear and targeted discrimination against those in Muslim-majority countries who lacked the funds to buy their way in prior to the Trump administration.
So why does this matter for American business? Why does this matter for American progress and society? This order directly conflicts with fundamental American values and undermines the spirit of US business. We’re a country that has built its success because of our ability to employ the talent and enthusiasm of immigrants in pursuit of the American dream.
Now multinational corporations and US companies alike have been disrupted. Some HB-1 visa holders may face issues with entering the US. Executives born in Iran but also considered British or Australian may be banned from entering the US on business, though there has been increased confusion and controversial statements surrounding this. Even if you’re an NBA player with Somalian roots, you have to worry about how this order may impact your freedom to travel across the US border.
What Trump has done by building this invisible wall is spark a new American narrative. It seems he is less concerned with safety and more concerned with changing, and permanently limiting, immigrants of certain backgrounds from coming to America. I guess we’ll just have to watch and see what he does next as he continues on Season One of his Presidency.