Biotech Executives Express Concern Over Immigration Order

February 10, 2017

A total of 166 biotech executives penned an open letter expressing concern over President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.

On Feb. 7, 2017, 166 biotech executives signed an open letter expressing concern over President Trump’s executive order banning immigration to the United States for 90 days from seven Muslim-majority nations. The letter published in Nature Biotechnology was signed by executives from biotechnology companies across the US. The signatories said they were opposed to the order because it “has compromised years of investment” in the US biopharmaceutical industry.

The biopharma industry draws employees from across the world and is largely dominated by American companies, the letter noted. A talented staff is a biopharma company’s “most precious resource” they continued, and companies in the US employ “tenfold” more people than their European counterparts. The executives also cited a Nature study, which found that approximately 52% of the 69,000 biomedical researchers in the US in 2014 were foreign-born.

Although the Trump administration’s executive order specifically targeted immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, the signatories indicate the order sends a message that “America is no longer welcoming of any immigrants whatsoever.” Many employees fear religious discrimination, they said, others expressed fear of deportation. The executives called President Trump’s policy “misguided” and said if the policy is not reversed, “America is at risk of losing its leadership position in one of its most important sectors.”

For now, however, the future of the policy is unclear. On Feb. 2, 2017, a district court in Seattle, Washington issued a temporary restraining order suspending the implementation of the executive order. In response, the Trump administration appealed the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. A three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court issued a decision on Feb. 9, 2017 upholding the lower court’s ruling, and continuing the suspension. President Trump has spoken out against the ruling and it is likely the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Source: Nature Biotechnology, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, The White House