AIA calls for "fair and impartial immigration policies"
Plane Flying Over Fence
Photograph by Flickr user Al Fed

AIA calls for "fair and impartial immigration policies"

The American Institute of Architects has expressed "deep concern" that US president Donald Trump's travel restrictions are damaging the country's architecture and construction industries.

The AIA joins the US technology sector and high-profile American architects in calling for "fair and impartial immigration policies", in the wake of Trump's plans for curbing immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

"Beyond the essential considerations of fairness and equity, restrictions targeting specific areas of the world can have profoundly negative business impacts," said AIA president Thomas Vonier, FAIA.

"Professional service exports are a key contributor to AIA member firms and their earnings. In fact, the entire international building development, design and construction sector relies heavily on reciprocal treatment and on the fair and ethical ability to travel, reside and work across national boundaries."

The statement issued yesterday – President's Day holiday in the US – refers to Trump's so-called Muslim ban, although it does not mention the president or his controversial executive order specifically.

Signed in January, the order restricted citizens from seven Middle Eastern and North African entering the US.

Federal judges blocked the move, but the Trump administration is said to be working up a revised version of the order to implement as soon as possible.

The AIA's statement says that targeted restrictions prevent the US from attracting talent and inhibit business development.

It also lists statistics claiming that immigrant labour accounts for 23 per cent of the country's construction workforce, and that half of large US architectural firms have offices in the Middle East and North Africa.

"Our profession, like the entire building industry, benefits from the contributions of immigrants and others outside of the United States, and from visa and immigration policies that are uniform, transparent, fair and free from arbitrary implementation," the statement reads.

The AIA came under fire from a large number of its members after pledging support for Trump after his election win last November, leading the organisation to issue an apology following the backlash.

More than 250 American architecture practices signed an open letter to Trump ahead of his inauguration on 20 January 2017, calling for him to take action on climate issues.

Read the AIA's statement in full below:


Where we stand: AIA statement on immigration and travel restrictions

As discussion on immigration continues, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) today joins with many American businesses, industries and universities in calling for fair and impartial immigration policies, and in expressing deep concern about policies that restrict immigration from specific countries or regions based on overly broad factors, including religion.

"Beyond the essential considerations of fairness and equity, restrictions targeting specific areas of the world can have profoundly negative business impacts," said AIA president Thomas Vonier, FAIA.

"Professional service exports are a key contributor to AIA member firms and their earnings. In fact, the entire international building development, design and construction sector relies heavily on reciprocal treatment and on the fair and ethical ability to travel, reside and work across national boundaries."

In addition to the need for regular legal travel by employees, clients and associates, many American architecture firms – like other industries and businesses – must be able to attract and retain qualified, skilled people from other countries in order to remain competitive. Targeted immigration restrictions, particularly when applied unfairly and without warning, can thwart recruiting efforts. They can also greatly inhibit business activity.

Finally, unilateral travel restrictions can damage the future of many professions, from medicine to architecture. In higher education, international students and faculty are essential to the future of our profession. The AIA also participates in international professional bodies which sponsor programs and activities that rely on the necessary movement of all parties.

The following statistics further support AIA's concern about the impact any newly imposed immigration or travel restrictions will have on the broader design and construction industry:

The AIA stands for values and principles that promote free movement and association. Our profession, like the entire building industry, benefits from the contributions of immigrants and others outside of the United States, and from visa and immigration policies that are uniform, transparent, fair and free from arbitrary implementation.