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May 5, 1996 by Arthur Hu

Norman Matloff: Welfare and Immigration Reform or Hate Speech?

When most people think of the anti-immigration movement in America, historians will point to mobs which drove the Chinese out of most cities in the West, and the anti-Chinese Workingmanís Party which argued that that immigrants threatened the jobs of natives. In Australiaís Pauline Hanson has achieved fame for her efforts to keep Asians immigrants out. People like Pat Buchanan and Governor Pete Wilson have been widely denounced racists for succeeding in helping craft legislation which takes away SSI as the sole source of income for many elderly immigrants. In more recent times, organizations like FAIR and labor leaders of engineering and doctors organizations have attacked immigration of the skilled as well.

Yet the one man who has done the most to carry on the legacy of anti-Chinese and anti-immigrant sentiment in America is a Jewish Democrat married into the Chinese community. He is Norman Matloff, a computer science professor who has developed software for the Chinese language. Although he has avoided mainstream headlines, his original articles in the notorious National Review have formed the largest and most formidable research base which have been used to justify stopping SSI for the elderly, and opposing immigration of high-tech engineers. His figures which claim to expose "welfare fraud" with 50% of Chinese elderly collecting SSI, and show that immigrant engineers are worsening a labor "surplus" of programmers have been cited by newspapers in Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco, Asian Week, and even computer industry papers. His huge internet web site is referenced by every immigration article on the web.

Matloff is careful to introduce himself as a volunteer married into the Chinese community. Yet on careful examination, his research papers are really thinly veiled attack on the Chinese community, not to mention the other immigrants such as Jewish refugees who have been caught in his line of fire. This "advocate" isnít satisfied with kicking penniless grandmother noncitizens out of their nursing homes, but also advocates removing naturalized citizens as well, and turning a sponsorís pledge which is currently an unenforceable formality into a lifetime promise of support when other citizens can rely on Social Security and SSI. He has even stated to me that "the only way to keep immigrants off of SSI is to stop their immigration entirely" which would amount to a new exclusion act.

His attacks on the largely Chinese skilled immigrant engineers hinge on attempting to paint a bleak picture of a career field which has the lowest unemployment rate, highest pay for a bachelors or masters degree, made Silicon Valley the highest paid metro area, and Washington state the highest paid in high-tech, highest pay increases, highest growth rate, creates the most jobs, and most secondary jobs, become the largest employer in many states, and the largest source of export jobs. Only law and medicine are more lucrative, and yet the medical profession also seeks to exclude the immigrant doctors, who are often the only ones who can be found to serve rural and inner city areas.

Unlike Pat Buchanan and most others who oppose immigation, Matloff uses his connections with the Chinese community to build up a case that the Chinese are racist and harmful to African Americans. Yet Asians have been shown to be supportive of racial preferences, even at the expense of their own students, they have the lowest rate of hate crimes commited of any race, and black opportunities and academic achievement has improved, not worsened with more immigrants. Matoff zeros in on the Chinese as prone to welfare fraud even though Jewish refugees also have a 50% SSI rate. He says that the Chinese donít create jobs because they tend to hire their own, even though the 2nd largest software company in the world, Computer Associates was founded by two Chinese immigrants, and Kingston Technology just made headlines by sharing their windfall with $70,000 bonuses for all their employees.

No one else has made claims that Asian immigrants have made no essential innovations to high tech, whether as hig-paid engineers or low-paid labor, not even the widely lauded Jerry Yang of Yahoo, or are actually harmful because Asians are culturally incapable of innovation. Everyone knows that the Chinese and Asians are among the few ethnic groups whose academic and economic achievements and contributions can rival those of the Jewish Americans with high tests scores, and disproportionate representation in high tech, engineering schools like Berkeley and MIT, and science awards like the Westinghouse Science prizes.

Yet only Matloff attempts to dismiss the importance of immigrants saying that the 30% to 40% of immigrants in Intel or Microsoft are no more important to the economy than Indians who run motels, and that . Only Matloff tries to decontruct the even more obvious by claiming that IBM, Intel and Microsoft, all of which dominate over 80% and created their respective markets, and hire high percentages of immigrants are nonessential, and even harmful because they promoted a flawed PC standard, which is the basis of 95% of personal computers today. So Matloff is saying that immigrants are no more essential that Intel or Microsoft. By insuring that industry is forced to hire the underqualified, Matloff endangers not only harms immigrants, but the growth of a crucial industry as well.

Michael Lind wrote for the New Republic that "huddled masses" need jobs. But 19.7 million jobs were created in the decade from 1983-93, over twice the 8,948,475 immigrants who arrived during 1983-92, more than enough to cover births and immigration. So even if immigrants didnít create jobs by freeing up women from housework, filling demand for growing high tech, or founding giant companies like Computer Associates, the economy create more than enough for immigrants, with plenty left over for the natives. Unemployment is at the lowest rates since the 1960s. Doctors and engineers have the lowest rates of unemployment, now 1 percent or lower. Silicon Valley and Los Angeles with the highest percentages of immigrants have the lowest rates of unemployment and the most jobs.

Critic must debunk the well known fact that immigrants are 25 to over 30 percent of Silicon Valley and Microsoft jobs, with the highest SAT math scores. Immigrants are key employees or founders of industry leaders like Sun, Microsoft and Intel are immigrants. Immigrants are far better educated, with between 1/3 to 1/2 of people at the Ph.D. level, and the best and brightest know no borders. Even the anti-immigrant Center For Immigration Studies (CIS) in Washington D.C. published data that show native-born and immigrant Chinese and Indians are engineers at 3 to 4 times the rates of most native whites, while immigrant blacks are nearly equal to native whites.

Matloff's idea of merit is having Berkeley admit by lottery, and discards overwhelming over-representation and over-achievement and SAT test scores of Asians by discounting "rote learning", and citing the rare under-representation of Chinese among a few academic (and possibly culturally biased) awards. He puts less value on the accomplishments of businessman Charles Wang who heads the second largest software company in the world than inventor An Wang whose company is now dead in all but name.

Immigrants are allegedly hired only because they are the cheapest not the best, and they lower salaries. But CIS data proves that Asian immigrants were equally or better paid than the native-born whites. Electrical Engineering Times and the National Science Foundation also show higher pay for immigrants. You'll have to refer to Norman Matloff for "proof" immigrants make less, but it is simply incorrect once you check the fine print that he equalizes for education when immigrants have much more education, and looks only at Santa Clara County which has higher, not lower wages than any other metro area.

Microsoft hires immigrants and foreign nationals even at the highest management levels, hardly a good strategy for scrimping on salaries. Every survey shows medicine and engineering to be the highest paid fields at their degree levels, and computer engineering growth appears to be limited only by the number of people that can be hired to fill the jobs. Despite, or because of immigration, living standards have improved by nearly every measure when American drive and live in better homes and cars, take better vacations, and can now afford increasingly more powerful computers for less money.

Only a true racist uses African Americans as a wedge to devalue and denigrate another "race", the immigrant Americans. The CIS says that immigrants "may" be keeping Blacks out of engineering, but their own tables showed that, if anything, importing more immigrants has increased the number of blacks almost as fast as the Asians themselves. Matloff claims Asians take educational resources away from minorities, but in an age when integration is a key strategy, the only group holding up test scores in districts like Oakland, San Francisco and Seattle when most whites have fled to the suburbs are the Asians. By nearly every measure, Blacks are increasing in every desirable profession, and their test scores and rates of high school and college graduation are better, not worse than before the latest wave of immigration. Immigrant Asians are the only ones brave and open minded enough to keep open retail establishments and provide medical services in the inner cities.

Every story about Chinese elderly welfare "fraud" leads to Norman Matloff. But the only "fraud" is a loophole that is literally big enough to drive a busload of elderly Chinese through - a promise of support that is NOT an enforceable promise never to apply for SSI, which is what you get when you haven't worked long enough to qualify for social security. Matloff's efforts have resulted in cutting off all elderly noncitizens whether their children drive BMW's or not. But that doesn't satisfy Matloff, whose next goal is to cut off naturalized elderly, even if it means cutting off all such immigration. But of working-age Californians, only 1.8% of Asian citizens 16-64 use welfare, lower than any other group including 2.9% for whites. If you agree with MIT's Lester Thurow that Social Security is basically a welfare system, and break out refugees, Asians actually use much less welfare than whites. Immigrants are a younger population with far fewer elderly. Social Security is busting the budget, not the tiny number of Chinese on SSI, but working Asians and Hispanics are actually helping keep social security solvent.

Alien Nation says immigrants import crime, but Asians have a lower arrest rate for nearly every crime reported by the Justice Department. If you remove the illegal immigrants, and legal immigrants commit fewer crimes. Thomas Sowell worries about TB and weird third-world diseases, but overall, Asians and Hispanics have equal or better indicators for every health risk like cancer, infant mortality and life expectancy. Yeh Yeh Ling warns that population increase will bring an environmental apocalypse, but air and water are CLEANER in American than 20 years ago, and natural resources are CHEAPER, not more scarce. Matloff says that immigration is merely importing racism. Yet Asians and Hispanics commit the lowest rates of hate crimes, and most surveys show Asians to be very supportive of affirmative action even at the expense of their own.

Americans shouldnít be fooled by statements of concern or "maybe". The bottom line is higher incomes and standard of living and more jobs. The real conservatives are optimists who live in a world where everybody wins, and nobody is the object of blame for economic decline that just isn't there.

Arthur Huís immigration facts page can be found at

http:// www.leconsulting.com / arthurhu/index/immig.htm.

Norman Matloffís immigration and welfare page can be found at

ftp://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/imm.html