Local tech industry concerned about immigration policies

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Some Indianapolis company presidents are joining the growing chorus of tech leaders expressing dissatisfaction with President Trump’s executive order on immigrants.

Tech CEOs have been some of the most vocal opponents of the ban on all refugees for 120 days and citizens of seven other countries for 90 days.

Meanwhile, 150 Canadian tech leaders just signed an open letter urging their government to create a visa for those displaced by Mr. Trump’s executive order.

Leaders of some Indy-area tech companies hope it doesn’t come to that, as they say global talent is needed.

For Formstack CEO Chris Byers, there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding President Trump’s executive order on immigrants.

That’s not unusual, according to Mike Langellier, who says most of the local tech leaders he’s spoken with are in “wait and see” mode as they wait to find out how immigration policy will continue to evolve.

What they are sure about, is that immigrants are as vital as Americans to the success of their business.

“The Human-Computer Interaction Design class or kind of course at IU here has been an amazing place where we’ve brought in talent and I’d say nearly 100 percent of that course seems to be foreign-born talent,” said Byers.

In fact, one of Formstack’s recent interns was from Iran, one of seven countries whose citizens are blocked from entering the country for 90 days.

“We don’t want to throw away the economic power that could come with the trained individuals, regardless of where they were born,” said Langellier.

Langellier is the president of TechPoint, an organization that promotes Indy’s tech community. He says Formstack is just one of many local companies with foreign-born employees. Many come from local colleges.

“If we look even at our universities, at those that are pursuing technical training, there are a lot of individuals that were born outside of the country that are getting that technical training,” said Langellier.

And with leaked documents showing the president may next target high-skilled visas, called H-1B visas, regardless of country of origin. Now, both chambers of Congress have introduced bills that would do the same thing.

Byers worries the policies will prevent companies from hiring the best people for the growing number of tech jobs in Indy.

“Our hope is that we can continue to build a great tech ecosystem here in Indianapolis and also keep our arms open to the world around us,” said Byers. “We hope that is where things head from here.”

There’s been so much confusion since the order was signed about who it impacts and no clarity right now about what the administration plans to do once the temporary bans end.

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