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Unintended Consequences of Trump Travel Bans

The life sciences sector has continuously been one of our most robust practice areas at Salveson Stetson Group. We regularly perform searches for pharmaceutical and bio tech companies of all sizes to help them find their newest executives. Although we normally work with these organizations to recruit talent across multiple functions, there’s one specific group of people on my mind today: scientific and research professionals.

I have always described the research and development professionals we recruit as “citizens of the world.” They are highly degreed, often holding both Ph.D. and M.D. degrees, and usually have been employed and educated in several countries. While we may find these people in different places across the globe, they are all connected through the common goal of identifying new therapies for various diseases. Their conferences may look like United Nations meetings, but their focus is not on where they were born or educated; it is on treating one of hundreds of diseases that still baffle and torment the human race.

Through our work in the life sciences sector, we’ve collaborated closely with these exceptional people for many years and have formed great relationships. However, over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a change in their spirits that we’ve never experienced before. They have become cautious – even fearful – about joining an American company. When discussing relocation, they show even more hesitation. The reason for their concern is obvious; the announcement of our new President’s travel ban from a handful of largely Muslim countries.

The fact is, none of these candidates come from the countries affected by the ban. And certainly, none of them have any history of dangerous behavior. They are accustomed to traveling the world freely, and that will most likely not change. What is different for them, however, is the growing chaos and confusion caused by President Trump’s unpredictable changes to U.S. immigration policy.

Think about it from the candidate’s perspective. When going through the search process, we are asking them to make a major career change, often requiring them to uproot their family. They then see the conflicting and concerning messages coming out of Washington D.C., and quickly decide that there is far too much risk involved in such a move.

It’s still too early to cite this as a trend, but I must say I was shocked by how quickly and definitively these people reacted to the uncertainty of our political landscape. I’m sure the travel ban wasn’t designed to slow down research on insidious diseases. But, my experience over the past few weeks makes me think it’s entirely possible that this will be one of the unintended consequences of this ill-conceived and short-sighted immigration ban.

I wonder what other harmful repercussions await us?

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