Nima Gardideh is the cofounder of a San Francisco-based startup.

He’s also a Canadian — an immigrant who came to Canada with his family from Iran more than 10 years ago, all of them hoping for a better life.

And now he’s in a state of utter dismay.

Gardideh’s status in the U.S. has been thrown into limbo since Friday, when U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order temporarily banning passport holders from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria,  Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. And Iran.

Nima

Nima Gardideh

“The executive order that President Trump has signed has been an awful and shocking blow to millions of legal residents and immigrants in his nation,” Gardideh said in a Facebook post Sunday. “Including me.”

The U.S. edict created instant chaos – and outrage – around the world. Travellers and employees of U.S. companies holding Green Cards or work visas – including tech companies – were left stranded or subject to deportation on arrival into the U.S. The order was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in Brooklyn Saturday night.

The developments are why Gardideh was only too willing Sunday to add his name to an open letter signed by more than 1,000 Canadian tech industry figures, including those from Shopify, Google, Facebook, and tech incubators like DMZ, MaRS and Communitech, deploring the U.S. decision and advocating that the Canadian government take steps to “institute an immediate and targeted visa” that would allow those who have been displaced to gain temporary residency and work in Canada.

Late Sunday, the Canadian government announced that it had been assured by U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn that Canadian citizens will be allowed to enter the U.S., even if they also hold citizenship in countries targeted by Trump’s ban.

It wasn’t immediately clear what impact that would have, if any, on Canadians like Gardideh who are in the U.S. on work visas. And for now the confusion, uncertainty and fear remains.

Gardideh, who studied at University of Toronto, is the CTO at askSuto.com, which provides personalized product recommendations. He moved to the U.S. two years ago and works in the U.S. on what’s known as an O-1 visa. He’s been told by lawyers not to leave the country until further notice. The fear is that if he were leave, he wouldn’t get back in. In the meantime, he’s trying to understand how the country that he experienced through television as a child in Iran, the one he wanted to be part of, could enact the kind of policies it suddenly has.

“I appreciate the kind comments asking me if I’m okay, telling me what to do and trying to comfort me but that’s not what I need,” he said. “That’s not what we need.

“We need people to rally against this as hard as humanly possible. Because this nation has stood for ideals that we have been taking for granted …. We need to stand up to protect those ideals.”

That theme was very much part of Sunday’s open letter, which also asked the Canadian government to issue “an immediate and targeted visa providing those currently displaced by the US Executive Order with temporary residency in Canada.” Late Sunday Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced that very thing, although those granted such a visa would not be allowed to work.

Iain Klugman, Communitech’s CEO and a signatory of the open letter, said Sunday that Communitech stands ready to play its part in the wake of the U.S. decision.

“We are supportive of the companies that have come together to craft the open letter; it’s an important message about the strength of our industry,” said Klugman. “We’ll work with those companies and other partners in the days ahead to determine how best we can help.”

The question now remains whether Canada will experience a sudden influx of tech workers in the wake of recent events in the U.S. Communitech is part of a campaign entitled GoNorthCanada.ca designed to repatriate Canadian tech talent.

“The GoNorthCanada campaign grew out of the desire that Canadian tech companies have to encourage ex-pat Canadians to look at jobs and opportunities north of the border,” said Klugman. “There is significant opportunity in our industry, if talented people are willing to move here.”

Gardideh admitted in an Messenger exchange Sunday that he has considered a return to Canada.

“I’ll be staying in the U.S. [for now] but if the ban persists then I would have to reconsider as being stuck in one country isn’t great for business or personal health.

“It’s been an advantage for us to be down here and learn from industry leaders. All of our revenue comes from the U.S.

“Canada is a much smaller market. But we’ll still be able to sustain our U.S. presence [if I were to return] through employees and my cofounder, who isn’t part of the ban.

“It’s feasible, but unwarranted.

“It’s sad to even think that those of us who are actually creating value for the economy have to think about leaving the country.”

About The Author

Craig Daniels
Senior Journalist

Craig Daniels is a veteran reporter, columnist and editor who has joined Communitech’s editorial team as senior journalist. He worked most recently at Postmedia in Hamilton, where he led the team that produced the National Post, and before that at the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Sun, Financial Post, the Montreal Daily News and the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John, N.B. He has an abiding interest in the transformational power and promise of tech and startup ecosystems, is a commercially licensed pilot, and has a debilitating wrist-watch fetish.