President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration Does Manufacturing No Favors

By Matthew McMullan
Jan 30 2017
Manufacturers have been tepid in their response to President Trump’s divisive executive order on immigration. | Photo by Gage Skidmore

There are plenty of more useful things the president could be doing.

President Donald Trump stirred up a lot of outrage this weekend. On Friday, during what time is normally considered the "news dump," the White House rolled out an executive order implementing stays against immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The order can generously be described as “unclear,” and a lot of people with valid travel documents who were in transit when it took effect got hosed big time.

This got people’s backs up. Protests broke out at airports across the country, and many prominent business leaders – particularly in the tech sector – have denounced the order, calling it un-American.

Amazon says it will back Washington state if it challenges the president’s order in court. Uber – which caught a ton of flack for crossing a taxi drivers' picket line at JFK in protest of the order – has set up a legal defense fund for drivers who may suddenly need it. And a bunch of other tech firms have put themselves on record in opposition.

Manufacturers, on the other hand, have been relatively quiet.

Some observers have pointed out that many of these big firms have a lot to gain or lose, based on the administration’s plans to put “America first” and the president's tendency to tweet scorn at companies that displease him. 

For some, business is business – and that explains some of the ease with which the tech community has come out swinging against the order. But not all have stayed silent.

GE chief Jeffrey Immelt told employees that the company would stand with workers who hail from the affected areas. Elon Musk, the tech entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX, has expressed dismay with the immigration order, and is publicly soliciting feedback that he can relay to the president when he meets him later this week. Ford, meanwhile, spoke on Monday against the order – and became the first big American auto company to do so. Ford CEO Mark Shields said this:

"When you go back to the history of our country, first of all, we are all immigrants into the country, and secondly, as a company, we have grown from over the last 114 years into a major automaker. And it’s been because of the great people who have worked in our company over the years and they have been from all races, creeds, nationalities and I think that’s what makes us great as a country and what makes us great as a company."

It doesn’t fall on every single business out there to stake out its position on fluid policy announcements from a new presidential administration. But customers vote with their feet and wallets, and hassling travelers and refugees from war-torn corners of the world – and all of the economic uncertainty that is created by doing so – does American manufacturers no favors.

Here’s what will:

A serious infrastructure investment with strong Buy America rules attached to it; doubling down on government support for industrial R&D; tax reform that keeps manufacturers’ interests close at heart; and apprenticeship programs so that Americans – and new immigrants to this country – are prepared to do their part to rebuild the U.S. manufacturing base.

We aren't interested in this misguided noise. We're interested in the good American jobs that will come from sound manufacturing policy. And we hope President Trump turns his focus back to creating it, post haste.