Last week’s executive order by President Donald Trump, “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States,” has the international community in somewhat of a tizzy. Though it is only temporary (90 days) and impacts only seven countries it has the potential to upset long-standing relationships that have nothing to do with the targets of the order, particularly in Georgia.
For example, the University of Georgia has 2,600 international students from 125 different countries, not to mention faculty and staff. Georgia Tech has 3,000 international students and Kennesaw State has 35,000 students including 1,500 international students from 120 countries. And while this number makes up a small percentage of the more than 93,000 students at three of the state’s largest schools, consider this: International students with F-1 or J-1 visas (student visas) are ineligible for federal or state needs-based aid, yet the tuition, along with housing and meal plan is more than $43,000 a year at UGA; $48,000 at Georgia Tech and more than $30,000 at Kennesaw depending on how many credit hours are taken. As you can see, international students are a boon for colleges and universities. No outlay of aid but an influx of cash at almost twice the rate of in state tuition. But will that continue?
Kennesaw State’s International Student and Scholar Services posted this message on its website: “On Friday, January 27, 2017, an executive order entitled ‘Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States’ was issued. As a result of this executive order, we do not recommend travel outside of the U.S. for anyone who holds a passport as a national of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.”
Hopefully this will all be cleared up by the time the semester is over.
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There are also other business concerns that reach far beyond college campuses. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway, the biggest push back over immigration may come from the Georgia business community.
“In 2015, the most recent year for which records are available,” Galloway wrote for his Political Insider blog, “Georgia corporations sought 45,382 positions for foreign workers under an H-1B visa. The average annual salary was nearly $73,000. Companies in Atlanta sought nearly 28,000 positions. Alpharetta was next with nearly 6,000.”
While a candidate, Donald Trump said, “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”
So far, Trump has kept his campaign promises and that could spell trouble for the Peach State The state is home to more than 30 bi-national chambers of commerce and more than 90 consular and trade offices representing countries from around the world.
Just in Middle Georgia, aside from an assortment of agriculture exports, we try to sell pyrotechnics made in Byron, buses produced in Fort Valley and auto and technical parts from Macon.
Galloway talked to Daryl Buffenstein, a partner with Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy — “the largest law firm in Atlanta focusing exclusively on immigration.”
“We spend, as a state and a city, an extraordinary amount of energy and money trying to attract foreign businesses to set up operations here because of their ability to produce employment.”
“A company that comes here is going to have a relatively small but incredibly important cadre of specialists and managers and owners and investors and so on – without which the money’s not coming. There seems to be a lack of understanding on this issue.”
“It’s not just importing workers, it’s exporting them, too. The ability of U.S. companies to get people into other countries to work – that’s a big issue,” Buffenstein said. And it’s one that’s based on reciprocity. Think Coke.”
President Trump has touted his business experience and we can only hope that he will have an open ear to some of the Georgia voices, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Johnny Isakson who know a thing or two about business as well.