GDC travel plans snared by anti-Muslim immigration order (update)

The Trump administration’s executive order on immigration has drawn a response from the Game Developers Conference, whose annual gathering of video games professionals from around the world is in a little less than a month.

Donald Trump on Friday signed an order that, among other things, bars entry to the United States for the next 90 days to persons from seven predominantly Muslim nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The International Game Developers Association, which holds its annual meeting at GDC, lists a chapter in Iran (as “emerging”). No other nations on the ban list have chapters listed on the GDC site.

The IGDA told Polygon that, of its 8,000 members, only two come from one of the seven countries on the ban list. “That being said, the issue isn’t necessarily the affect on these specific countries but on the general spread of xenophobia in the U.S. government and how it will certainly affect the U.S.’s ability to hire talent and remain globally competitive,” Kate Edwards, the IGDA executive director, told Polygon.

Late Saturday, a federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y. blocked the administration from deporting newly arrived immigrants who were in transit when the order was issued. The ruling, however, does not admit them to the United States. They remain detained in airports.

Further, the order still applies to lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders), who are originally from one of the seven nations named. This means if they travel abroad, they could be refused entry upon return to the U.S.

The policy itself and the uncertainty it has brought to travel to the U.S. has led some to cancel plans, whether wary of the order’s effect on them, as a protest against it, or both. Though the order only involves seven countries, many others have decried the anti-Muslim nature of the policy and the climate it endorses.

Shahid Kamal Ahmad, a games developer in the United Kingdom (and formerly PlayStation’s director for strategic content) said on Twitter that he would not attend GDC 2017 in light of the order.

Today he added:

Edwards, the IGDA executive director, noted that her organization is an advisory organization to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services when American companies seek to hire overseas professionals to work in this country.

“Since becoming the Executive Director in late 2012, I have signed over 250 such letters for individuals from all over the world, including from what are identified as ‘Muslim nations,’” Edwards said in a statement to Polygon. “We embrace the fact that the passion and skill for game development knows no boundaries — political, geographic, cultural, or demographic. Thus to restrict immigration on the basis of an individual’s state of origin represents an ignorant knee-jerk that assumes only the worst and wrongly stereotypes the people of an entire culture.

“We stand in absolute opposition to any policy in any government that would seek to unduly restrict an individual’s ability to pursue their creative passion and chosen career path in game development,” Edwards said.

Polygon has also reached out to representatives of GDC, the Entertainment Software Association and the DICE Summit and Awards, which is held the week before GDC, to inquire about the effects of the policy on their memberships and their reactions to it.

Update: The IGDA replied to Polygon’s request for comment; its statements are incorporated in the revised post above.

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This article was originally posted on Polygon

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