An editorial by Gov. Terry McAuliffe
Last week in Washington, I spoke on behalf of all of America’s governors to tell our newly elected president and congressional leadership that we are ready to work with them on an agenda that grows our economy and makes people’s lives better.
Four days later, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and I stood amidst a chaotic scene at Dulles International Airport. We were searching for answers from airport authorities on the president’s appalling executive order to ban refugees and people from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the country.
This attack on American values has divided our nation and made Americans less safe both at home and abroad. But just as important to the future of our country, it has had a chilling effect on the ability of states like Virginia to bring new jobs and economic activity here from around the world.
In the past three years, Virginia has closed 878 economic development deals worth $14.44 billion in capital investment. Of those deals, 133 were projects with companies headquartered overseas. These commitments garnered more than $3.9 billion in investments, creating 11,546 jobs and saving 2,912 more.
As governor, I’ve traveled the globe on 22 domestic and international trade missions to 19 different countries to attract companies to the Commonwealth.
Before last week, the United States of America was seen nearly universally as a beacon of democracy where people could travel and engage in commerce freely, without fear of being harassed, detained, and deported because of their nationality or religion. That all changed when President Trump signed that order.
In just the past few days, two different companies have informed Virginia that they are putting promising economic development projects on hold as a direct result of this illegal order.
Both companies are based in Middle Eastern countries that are not actually subject to President Trump’s order, but are too fearful that their countries could be next to consider doing business within the U.S. at this time.
One of the business people even has a valid U.S. visa, but is unwilling to risk traveling just to be sent back home. These are companies that have an established relationship with us and want to bring their business to America.
Our world-class public university system in Virginia is also suffering consequences. Professors and students that our schools attracted from around the globe are afraid to travel — despite having valid work or student visas — or risk being unable to return to Virginia.
I have already received reports of Virginia college students who have been barred from returning to the U.S. after traveling.
Students, professors, job-creators, and asylum-seekers from all over the world are a part of the rich cultural and economic tapestry that make America the greatest nation on Earth.
If we are unable to welcome a diverse group of people from around the world, we’re going to sit on the sidelines while competitors move quickly to attract that talent. They’ll waste no time courting businesses and jobs that should have come to America.
This disastrous order comes at a time when Virginia’s economy is finally growing again after devastating sequester cuts slowed our climb out of the Great Recession. In October, we’re facing another round of more severe sequester cuts.
We know our growth is not guaranteed and we must work to maintain our progress every single day.
By hampering our ability to maintain and build upon these gains, the president has put our economy at risk.
In Virginia, we’ve been targeted further through an arbitrary freeze in federal hiring that will hurt our workers, including veterans who are seeking new avenues to continue their public service.
We do not have to sacrifice national security to continue welcoming people who will contribute to a more prosperous, diverse America.
In fact, this action only serves to empower our enemies and provides a ready-made recruitment tool for terrorist organizations who believe we are waging a war on Islam.
On behalf of the people of Virginia, I joined with my Attorney General Mark Herring this week to defend the rights of Virginians by bringing major legal action against the administration.
I am deeply disappointed that only days after coming to Washington to pledge partnership, I was compelled to join a federal suit against this unilateral and discriminatory executive order.
This is not the America we know.
As a Commonwealth founded in the principles of religious liberty and freedom from tyranny, Virginia will continue to stand against this ban and work to reverse the damage it is already doing to our economy, our higher education system, and our reputation as the leader of the free world.
Terry McAuliffe is the governor of Virginia.