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Trump’s travel ban could hurt Arizona’s tech industry

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, file photo, PayPal founder Peter Thiel, right, listens as then President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with technology industry leaders at Trump Tower in New York. Thiel was able to gain New Zealand citizenship in 2011 despite never having lived in the country because a top lawmaker decided his entrepreneurial skills and philanthropy were valuable, documents reveal. Thiel didn't even have to leave California to become a new member of the South Pacific nation. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

PHOENIX — There’s a lot that can be said about the Trump Administration’s travel ban on either side, but one thing no one has talked too much about how it could hurt the tech industry.

“I think it has a negative impact on the tech industry,” said Steven Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.

That’s because if the travel ban makes it all the way through the Supreme Court, where it’s likely headed, the H-1B Visa program could be severely limited.

“This is a mechanism that’s used by many technology companies large and small across the U.S. to procure the talent that they need in order to do what they do,” Zylstra said.

This could affect Arizona because heading into 2017, economists say the state is a national leader in information-technology job growth.

Indeed, half of the nearly one million open positions in the U.S. right now, Zylstra said, are in the information-technology sector.

“The U.S. is just not producing enough graduates in the STEM disciplines, (science, technology, engineering and math), to fill the demand that’s being created here in the United States,” Zylstra said.

The tech industry has had to rely significantly on folks from around the world to fill these jobs.

“A lot of the talent that they use are some of the smartest people from around the world,” he said. “And the industry sees no reason to keep them out … from adding to both our innovation and productivity as a nation.”

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