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Foreign-born business owners say travel ban is bad for business

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SEATTLE – President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on refugees and immigrants entering the United States is hurting small business, say immigrants in International District.

“If I leave, can I come back in?” Taylor Hoang went through the list of questions she’s received since the president’s immigration ban Friday.

As the executive director of the Ethnic Business Coalition of Seattle, and a restaurant owner herself, Hoang said the ban is bad for business.

“There’s this sudden fear or feeling that you can’t travel. You can’t move around freely. You can’t just cross the border to visit Canada and have the ability to freely come back to your country,” she said.

Like 18 percent of small business owners across America and 15 percent in Seattle, Hoang was born in a foreign country. She said that makes her a target.

“When you start putting one ban on a certain country for their religious beliefs or because you think they may pose a threat, what is there to stop the administration from putting bans on other countries,” she ask.

One of the countries whose people cannot get into the United States right now, is Somalia. Fadumo Ali, who runs a dress shop in Columbia City, called Somalia home until 2008 when she sought asylum in the United States.

“The reason people come to America and like America is because they have freedom of speech,” said Ali, through an interpreter. “Basically they have free will in religion and everything.”

Ali said she liked the president’s tough stance on terrorism while campaigning. But the travel ban has made her rethink her support.

“Everybody wants a life. Everybody wants kids and everything and everyone is trying to make America great again, but Trump is not making America great again by basically banning seven countries and saying Muslims are bad.”

The ban has meant Ali can’t bring her mother to Seattle to visit, or go back to Somalia for fabrics.

“From the seven countries that are being banned, we get tons of goods imported from them,” said Hoang. “I know a lot of small business go back and buy products.”

Hoang said Ali is one of hundreds of owners you probably pass on your way home, that aren’t sure when or if they’ll see their home countries again.

“They still have families back in Iran or Syria and they go back to visit and when they are unable to come back in and run their business, it not just affects their business and the community, but the livelihood of their family as well,” said Hoang.