As Iraqi Immigrant, Bio CEO Sees Pros and Cons in U.S. Travel Ban

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the Christian, Shiite Muslim, and Yazidi religious minorities living in areas they controlled in Iraq and Syria.

Amid this crisis, the U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees during the 2016 fiscal year, according to the Pew Research Center.  (An additional 31,143 refugees were allowed into the U.S. between Oct. 1, 2016 and Jan. 24, 2017.)

In fiscal year 2016, nearly 39,000 Muslims entered the U.S., accounting for just under half (46 percent) of all refugee admissions, according to the Pew Research Center. This was a slightly higher share than for Christians, who accounted for 44 percent of all refugees admitted in fiscal year 2016, and the first time that Muslims refugees exceeded Christians since 2006, when a large number of Somali refugees entered the U.S.

As a business executive, however, Barka said the temporary ban on travel visas will disrupt CalBiotech’s operations, which in recent years has done about 60 percent of its business outside the United States. Over half of the company’s 45 employees have come from other countries, Barka said, including PhDs from Iraq, Mexico, and China.

The company develops and manufactures nearly 150 immunoassay tests used to detect specific biomarkers in blood or urine samples. Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), which acquired Specialty Labs as part of its $2 billion buyout of AmeriPath in 2007, is CalBiotech’s biggest customer, Barka said.

Barka said his company does a lot of business in the Middle East, and it is already affected by the president’s executive order.

“I have a customer who was supposed to come here next week from Iran,” Barka said. “This guy is legit. I had to provide a letter saying that we are talking and doing business.” But the trip has been canceled because the customer can no longer get a visa.

“We are wasting time, wasting opportunities with this order,” Barka said. “We have to do business. We are letting these terrorists win in some ways, because we are letting them impact our business.”

So while he supports President Trump’s order in terms of leveling the religious playing field for refugees, Barka said, “I don’t think it’s valid in terms of stopping terrorists. We didn’t need to create this big mess. If you’re doing business in the Middle East, there will be an impact because of this ban on visas.”

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