In Columbus, Immigration Ban Sparks Fear For Visa Workers, Muslims

Jan 30, 2017

President Donald Trump’s immigration order barring refugees, as well as immigrants and visa-holders from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan, impacts businesses with many foreign workers – including Cummins Engine.

The Columbus-based manufacturer has many employees born in other countries, and more than half of its workers are based overseas.

To get these workers to the U.S., Cummins and other companies can use H-1B visas – reserved for foreign workers with specialized skills or advanced degrees earned at American universities.

In 2012, the Brookings Institute found Columbus – mainly Cummins – had the second-most demand for H-1B visa workers of any American city.

Cummins spokesman Jon Mills declined to say how many H-1B workers his company has. But, he said in an email, Cummins is “deeply concerned by this executive order and the message it sends to ALL people.”

Columbus’ small Muslim community, most of whom aren’t citizens, is also concerned. Hanna Omar is on the board of the local mosque, and knows at least a dozen people and families affected by the order.

“And then, these are just the ones that come from those seven states [affected by the ban],” Omar says. “A lot of Muslims [in Columbus] are from Pakistan or Egypt … that don’t know if maybe their country will be next.”

Omar was born in the U.S. and has family in Yemen. She says her mosque will have immigration attorneys speak to the congregation later this week.