On Jan. 29, I did something for the first time in my life — I attended a political protest.

Conor Sen

Along with thousands of other metro Atlantans, I stood outside of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to protest the Trump administration’s executive order impacting refugees and immigrants from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa. I attended the event both to register my opposition to the executive order and to affirm my support for the values that have defined the growth and progress of metro Atlanta over the past century.

Atlanta owes its blessed position as the capital of the New South to two factors: having the greatest airport in the world and a reputation for being a beacon of civil rights and inclusiveness. Both were threatened by the Trump administration’s executive order.

A successful airport is both a function of infrastructure and civic planning, something within Atlanta’s control that we’ve done well, and market forces — is a city a place people want to fly in and out of, or not?

Airports in northern Kentucky and Memphis once were thriving hubs, yet due to changes in demand and market forces no longer are. A thriving airport, and the economic activity it generates, is a privilege, not a right. By increasing restrictions and increasing uncertainty on who’s allowed to come to the United States, and hence fly into the Atlanta airport, you’re negatively impacting the economy and business environment here.

As for civil rights, there’s a reason why metro Atlanta, and particularly our part of the region, has thriving businesses and high home values in a way that other communities in the state and South do not. We’ve created an open, inclusive environment that people want to move to where others have not. In the 21st century, attractive places will attract people of all races, ethnicities and religions, and places that attract people of all races, ethnicities and religions become more attractive. It’s a virtuous cycle.

The Jan. 29 protest at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as seen by Conor Sen.

Whether it’s German-owned Mercedes Benz moving its North American headquarters to Sandy Springs, or a new restaurant concept like the Halal Guys opening its doors on Buford Highway in Chamblee, you never know where the next great business opportunity will come from, but there’s a good chance it’ll come from abroad.

While I earn my living as an investment manager and business writer, this isn’t just a business view for me; it’s also personal. My business partner happens to be an immigrant. His father was a technology executive in Mexico, and business took their family to Florida. They lived here for years on a green card before becoming citizens, and it’s thanks to their desire to move to the United States and our attitudes towards outsiders that I now have a paycheck. Last week, the Brookhaven City Council appointed Michael Diaz, a native of Colombia who is a Brookhaven resident and involved community member, to the Brookhaven Planning Commission. While my family has been in the United States for generations, we can trace our heritage to both Ireland and China, a combination that’s possible here in the United States in a way it isn’t in most countries.

Diversity, openness and inclusiveness is our strength, both economically and culturally. We can either accept that, and all of the opportunities and challenges that go along with it, or we can reject it and accept the certain stagnation that accompanies it.

Conor Sen is a portfolio manager for New River Investments, a columnist for Bloomberg View and a member of the Brookhaven Planning Commission. He resides in Brookhaven with his wife and daughter.

22 replies on “Commentary: Why Trump order inspired my first political protest”

  1. We are all sons or daughters of immigrants,my parents came from Europe after the second world war and were excluded from many jobs and opportunities because of religion and ethnicity. They persevered, educated their children and in a very non-inclusive Atlanta of the 60’s and 70’s they succeeded without resorting to demonstrations.
    I applaud people expressing their views, but seeing this as missed financial opportunity for Atlanta or as a predominately religious ban seems shallow and inaccurate to ME. I think the order was poorly articulated and implemented.
    As for MB, tax breaks and a pliant Sandy Springs mayor explains their move.
    It seems to me that the safety of the country should be a primary consideration, not it’s economic growth. And yes, perhaps some SLOWING of growth may occur–something I wouldn’t mind as I sit in my car on Ga 400…..

    1. The problem with your argument is that the countries most likely to be of danger to us were excluded from the order because President Trump does business with those countries and there already are sufficient safeguards in place in assessing immigrants at risk.

  2. These travelers and immigrants have been much more thoroughly vetted than Trump has allowed himself to be. Why did we let him get away with it? I suggest a new law requiring specific disclosures by presidential candidates, including (at a minimum) 5 years of federal income tax returns. That’s simple,straightforward, and necessary to avoid the questions and turmoil that have arisen from our current president’s intransigence.

    1. What does this in any way have to do with the discussion ?? I suggest a law that people with the last name Steanson have to display their tax returns in the AJC…sound stupid, ? I agree. I don’t care about Hillaries taxes or Trumps , I care about policies and how they are carried out..

  3. Nice article or commentary. I’ll add that some of the most diverse research labs in the country at Emory are also effected. Doctors, are now unable to travel which not only effects their ability to continue with NIH funded grants but vital patient follow up care. Other in State University’s are probably also effected.

    Don’t think that Georgia Congressmen/women are rushing to the phone to help. It’s examples like this by Georgia representatives in Washington that make it clear, Georgia’s not the place to be for “Global Citizens” or Americans with a global work force.

    Americans are more at threat from Radical Christian Terrorist’s like in N.C., fire at Mosque, Montreal last week, than any refugee. Should we expect more clinic bombings and doctors killed if the Radical Christian Terrorists don’t get abortion laws reversed? Be careful how you place blame and on who because as you can
    see, I hope, it doesn’t sound or feel good when turned around. Here in Georgia the nightly death count on the news is well documented which makes most feel more afraid going about town with other Americans. I bet no one is thinking about a terrorist in some neighborhoods of Atlanta or it’s surroundings. You’re thinking about the guy with a gun because, why not, he can carry and no one can ask if he’s even got a permit.

  4. “you never know where the next great business opportunity will come from, but there’s a good chance it’ll come from abroad.”…This is the very reason Trump was elected. Americans have given up on themselves. American companies continue to command the largest market caps in the world. Here in Atlanta we have our very own global brands, Coca-Cola, UPS, Home Depot, Delta, Lockheed Martin, Aflac, just to name a few. Great business started IN America!

    While I understand that this is an immigrant nation as well, let’s not forget the Americans who have called this land home for decades and generations aka, The Forgotten Middle.

  5. Thank you for writing this. The ban was a bumbling mess as well as an unwelcome statement of who and what America is. Trump is not the only one who wants us to be safe. I believe all of our leaders do. They just disagree on the best way to do it. Some of us think heavy-handedness is the way to keep us safe while others of us think it’s a good way to make enemies and start wars.

    And yes, even though there is no law currently to force a president to disclose his financial details to those he leads, he does have a duty to do it.

  6. As Obama loved to say, elections have consequences. All of those actively trying to blow up America (Berkeley yesterday) cannot claim to be interested in our country. You are evil and must be defeated. Chuck Schumer is not a good poster child.

  7. Nicely stated reasons why we should encourage LEGAL immigration, not the “racing to hell in a hand basket” voter drives of the past few years (about 8 or so). Many of us are descendants of LEGAL immigrants who came to the door, knocked, and were given permission to enter. They didn’t sneak over the border and demand “their rights” and that we pay for them.

  8. The whole thesis behind the protests are flawed. There is not only national security interests at stake (or are we not learning from what France – a country that has opened its borders without proper vetting – is dealing with related terrorists attacks as recently as this week) and rule of law. I had a conversation with a citizen from Serbia this past week who was working here in Atlanta for the last year what has tried to get his wife and children here on a visa but that application was denied on the grounds of increased risk he would not leave the country upon expiration of his work visa yet our past administrations have turned mostly a blind eye to those coming to our country illegally. This travesty has to stop. I doubt many Americans are against immigrants migrating to the US given our history but it has to be done legally.

  9. The silent majority (still) stands with Trump. Do you really think your protests are having an effect? You look ridiculous.

    Meanwhile, we are silently boycotting companies who have trashed Trump, his administan and thus his supporters – the deplorables as you call us.

    Good riddance Amazon, Coke, Nike, CNN, Starbucks and more.

  10. Why is this garbage even in the Report Newspaper? As a LEGAL latino immigrant to this country I agree 100% with what the President did. As someone who’s been a lifelong Democrat I want to say that you people are making all of us look like a bunch of idiotic cry babies. Enough is enough, I’m beyond sick of this mentally ill behavior. You are destroying what’s left of the Democrat party…

  11. Thank you for your thoughtful article. For those who are criticizing this commentary with references to illegal vs. legal immigration, the people affected by the ban were fully vetted with legal admission to our country.

    1. Mostly not, I think most would agree that the ban on those with a green card was WRONG.The majority did not have a green card. I also think that a window of time should have been provided to allow for families to decide on their travel plans.

  12. I want the doctor working on NIH funded grants to be able to continue the work they’re doing, which means being able to move about the planet. Many doctors in this country come from Iran and are among the best and brightest at Universities and Hospitals across our country.

    I want the Iraqi General who’s been fighting ISIS with us for 15 years, lives under security protection in Iraq while his family is living under protection in the USA, to at least be able to come to our country unimpeded. Along with all those who made it possible for our military to operate in their country, safely.

    Those with valid Visa’s who’ve already been vetted shouldn’t be impeded.

    Let’s be clear, the election had the lowest voter turnout in history with 54% of registered voters voting. The popular vote, most votes counted where won by the losing candidate. The person in the White House is there with the support of a total of 26.3% of the legally registered voting public. In no way is that a mandate under any method of maths.

    1. Agree with the first 3 paragraphs, as for the last–quit whining, Trump won by the rules of the contest, this isn’t about a mandate, it’s what he said he would do if elected and he WAS by the rules of the contest..sheesh..Let’s be completely clear, Trump won the contest…

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