Trump immigration halt casts dark cloud over next IETF gathering

H-1B visa passport Egypt

The Internet Engineering Task Force’s upcoming meeting in Chicago might have fewer attendees than usual, thanks to the Trump administration’s broad immigration ban.

Several lengthy discussions on the group’s mailing list highlight the fact that some regular attendees at the IETF’s meetings could have trouble attending IETF 98, which is scheduled for Chicago in March.

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The executive orders, which ban residents of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Sudan from entering the U.S., have roiled IETF’s membership, causing some to suggest that the group avoid meetings in the U.S.

Although an official statement from the group said that the IETF does not take political stances, network engineer and IETF member Dan Harkins said that similar issues have reared their heads before. Previously, another IETF member had complained that he could not attend a meeting in Singapore with his husband and child, because that country does not recognize same-sex relationships.

“And now, after president Trump's executive order we now have the situation where people that had planned on attending IETF 98 may not be able to,” said Harkins via email.

Being unable to attend IETF meetings is a big deal for members, according to Joel Snyder, a member and technology consultant. Most Internet standards are defined by the Requests for Comment that are the main business of the IETF.

“While a great deal of work is done remotely and via email, these face-to-face meetings are jam-packed with technical sessions and discussions,” he said.

Naeem Khademi is an atheist Iranian-born researcher who lives and works in Norway, and has attended the IETF in the U.S. He said in a mailing list posting that the new executive orders would prevent him from attending IETF 98, thanks to his Iranian passport.

“I believe as a general principle, IETF should avoid holding meetings in the states that have introduced blanket visa bans on various nationalities (or minorities) indiscriminately, specially if there is an interest within the IETF to have a better participation from such under-represented countries,” Khademi wrote.

Greg Wood, the director of communications operations for the Internet Society and press contact for the IETF, told Network World that the relevant IETF subcommittee is even now working to ensure that future meetings are held in as inclusive an environment as possible.

“The overall goal is to hold meetings that help the IETF community make progress on their work in developing standards,” he said. “The Meeting Venue working group is currently working to provide more formalized guidance.”

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