Chapter 5

“Our Immigration Policies Are Insane”

As frustrating as the skilled talent shortage is for our participating entrepreneurs, it is not an exaggeration to report that our nation’s immigration policies enrage them. The problem is not merely that the United States does not effectively recruit and welcome the world’s best talent. Rather, our roundtable participants insist, current immigration policies in many ways actually obstruct and even actively deter high-skill immigration.

“The real problem is immigration because even if we fix the education system, it’s going to take years before you see results,” a participant at our Herndon, Virginia, roundtable told us. “In the venture capital industry over the past 20 years, 40 percent of the people who’ve been funded as CEOs [of new companies] were foreign-born. And that’s way more than what immigrants represent in the population by a long shot.”

“I’ve got two co-founders who are not American, along with up to 75 percent of our scientific hires and applicant pool, so visa problems and delays are a major issue for us,” said John Sheffield, co-founder of Seven Bridges Genomics, a Boston-based pioneer in the field of bioinformatics, which Forbes magazine has estimated could develop into a $100 billion industry.1 “One of my co-founders graduated a few years ahead of me from Harvard and was in the PhD program. He was the number one student in his country’s national exams before he came to Harvard. So he’s exactly the kind of guy that ...

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