Three clocks hang on the wall in the conference room at Rafid Hindo’s office in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. They show the time for Chicago, London and Baghdad.
The last one is the most important.
“Most of our office is in Baghdad,” Hindo said. “That’s where the bulk of our work is.”
Hindo, who was born in Iraq, partnered with his two brothers to run Near East Resources, a consulting company that primarily assists American companies working in Iraq, largely in engineering and the oil and gas industries.
Hindo said the company is now grappling with the uncertainty over President Donald Trump’s executive order that seeks to ban immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq. A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a block on the ban, and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.
Iraq’s precarious national security makes working in the country dangerous, Hindo said, but the travel ban has made it even trickier.
“The word right now in the Iraqi parliament is basically they are trying to do a reciprocity and basically put a ban on American’s coming into Iraq,” Hindo said. “That would be detrimental (for business).”
For now, Hindo said Near East Resources is dealing with fallout from Trump’s executive order. He said his company has been negotiating a commodity deal between an American company and the Iraqi government. He declined to give the name of the company because the deal was not yet finalized.
“Probably in the next month or two, we are going to need Iraqi officials to come into the country and do signings over here,” he said. “With this ban, that’s going to affect our business. And it’s a commodity — prices change. It took a long time to lock everything in place. Now this will throw it into disarray.”
Hindo said Near East Resources, which employees eight people in the Chicago area and about 55 more in Iraq, has weathered crises before, and he’s confident the company will survive this one.
Still, he said it’s frustrating to have so little control right now.
“There is not much you can do,” he said. “I mean, you can try and put out fires. And you say, ‘This is temporary’ and ‘We’ll see what happens.’”
Editor’s note: WBEZ spoke with Chicago-area residents from each of the seven countries named in President Donald Trump’s travel ban. They spoke about how the uncertainty is affecting their businesses, careers and students. Find all of their stories here.
Miles Bryan is a producer and reporter at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at @miles__bryan.