Stephen Fleming Discusses Immigration and Competitiveness at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Forum

 Each year, more than a hundred nations send their best and brightest students to Georgia Tech, where they learn science, engineering and other key disciplines in an environment that is increasingly focused on entrepreneurship.  When they graduate with some of the best science and engineering educations available in the world today, current U.S. immigration polices give these students two options: go back home, or be hired by a company large enough to afford to help them stay.

That’s a huge loss of innovation and entrepreneurship at a time when the United States desperately needs both.  Stephen Fleming, a Georgia Tech vice president and executive director of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, recently told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum that this loss costs U.S. competitiveness and jobs, both present and future.

As a former venture capitalist now responsible for Georgia Tech’s programs for high-tech startup companies, Fleming meets many students with technical backgrounds who have the entrepreneurial bent.  One statistic he cited: of 28 students in a recent innovation competition, 26 were from overseas.  Under our current status, those 26 represent entrepreneurial talent for our competitors.

Immigration has been a hot-button issue for several years now, but Fleming points out that immigrants have been powering U.S. entrepreneurship – and some of our most innovative companies – for decades.  Our higher education system attracts the best students from around the world, so why shouldn’t we be taking advantage of that, seeing that as an opportunity rather than a problem?

Read Fleming’s comments here and see a video of his presentation on C-SPAN.