May 12, 1997
Arthur Hu
12422 107th Pl NE
Kirkland WA 98034 206-749-2682

To Electrical Engineering Times

Professor Norman Matloff of UC Davis has lead the way to blame immigrants by painting an elaborate illusion of a grim career picture for software engineers. He says that immigrants like the Chinese don’t create jobs, they only hire other ethnic immigrants. He claims almost none of Silicon Valley’s innovations were made by immigrants, and that they lower wages. He makes the incredible claim that no matter how disproportionate, immigrants and the companies they founded or helped build, whether Yahoo, Cirrus, Microsoft or Intel have harmed, not advanced the industry.

Yet the reality is that immigrants have made software the most attractive job field, if anything. No career field has grown faster with 50% hiring growth every 5 years in software. Software and computer engineer salaries are ahead of every other comparable degree in every survey, and rising the fastest. Unemployment is the lowest of any field at less than 1 percent. It is laughable to say immigrants have made the profession unattractive. Only law or medicine which require even more education than rival these opportunities (and overpaid doctors are crying about unfair competition as well). For all their glitches, innovations of companies like Intel, Microsoft, and Yahoo have created a new era of American high tech dominance. They have made possible a world where any average family can and often does go to any Sears and be surfing the internet in a weekend. Computing enhances the productivity and living standards of all Americans. Chinese immigrants founded Computer Associates, the 2nd largest software company in the world , and Kingston, which gave out $75,000 bonuses and jobs to employees of all races. Every national survey refutes the notion that low salaries are the primary reason for hiring immigrants. The National Science Foundation found that foreign born engineers with an MS were paid $41,400, $1,100 more than natives. The Center for Immigration Studies found that foreign-born Chinese earned $39,691, 8% more than native-born whites. Matloff's’ survey deceptively equalizes for education when immigrants are more educated. He looks only at Silicon Valley, where the pay and immigrant concentration is the highest in the nation. No industry pays more than high tech, and Washington State leads high tech pay, where as many as 30%-40% of Microsoft’s newest engineers are immigrants, and average pay runs from $60,000 up to $135,00 with stock. No career field generates more secondary jobs than the 3 to 5 jobs created by software hires. Matloff’s report says the Chinese and other immigrants are more harmful than innovative. He says they are "under-represented" with respect to "significant innovations", and ACM awards. His study claims rote-based Asian educational values render them culturally incapable of innovation. Yet among all ethnic cultures, only the Jews can rival the Asians in engineering and science participation rates, high math test scores, and science awards. Though he cloaks himself as one interested in the Chinese community and culture, no other engineering study makes direct attacks on the talents and contributions of the Chinese. His research is also the basis of legislation which will take SSI payments away from the poorest elderly noncitzen immigrants, many of who are Chinese or Jewish.

Matloff offers very weak evidence of a labor surplus. When Microsoft uses computers to sort through 120,000 resumes per year but only hire 2,000, it means a lot of people want to work for Microsoft, not that they are all unemployed. He blames immigrants as the reason his mid-career friend "Cindy" can’t find a programming job. But after Cindy got downsized from the defence industry, Matloff readily concedes her resume lacks any of the experience or skills demanded by employers. Matloff says employers are too specific in job requirements. But in order to prove that people with no marketable skills are better than immigrants with killer resumes and greater advanced degrees, he must prove that NO job requirements are valid.

Matloff boldly claims that any programmer can be productive in any technology in a matter of days if not weeks with no formal education, degrees or specific experience. Any job requirements like bachelor’s or masters degrees, C++ or Java, Win95 or UNIX, graphics, internet, routing or database skills can be filled by any programmer without any of these "over" qualifications. Stopping immigration would "force" people like Cindy to be hired instead. Yet every hiring manager knows this is complete nonsense. Even if every immigrant were deported tomorrow, the jobs would (and most did) go to natives with a better skills match, not Cindy. In an industry that adds jobs at ten times the rate of population increase, it is a lack of skills, not jobs that is hurting Cindy. Forcing companies to hire those who are hardest to place instead of those with the closest matching skills would be a disaster, and would only slow down the unprecedented rate of job creation in the software industry.

Prof Matloff ‘s vigorous efforts have become a cornerstone of the anti-immigrant / industry movement. Not just the EE Times but the Los Angeles Times, National Review and every immigration site on the Web have published or cited his "research" which flies completely in the face of what every engineer and manager knows. He cannot be easily dismissed as an isolated eccentric. I urge others who read EE Times to spend the time to counter his destructive campaign against immigrant engineers before it endangers the future of high tech as the engine of jobs and wealth, and the foundation of the new information economy.

My immigration database site: <> (which links to matloff's site)

Arthur Hu Kirkland WA