History: \doc\web\98\04\immdeb.htm 3/27/98
by Arthur Hu
Originally for Seattle’s Asian Focus Magazine April 1998
"The Chinese (And Other Immigrants) Must Go!": Matloff’s Myth of a Programmer Shortage
In Seattle, some Asians are wincing at ObeChine’s use of a 1920s Chinese caricature as a restaurant sign. But visit the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma to see a poster which headlines "The Chinese Must Go!" Not everybody remembers the times when organizations like the "Knights of Labor " used the threat that Chinese immigrants, who were often attacked and ridiculed for wearing pigtails and oriental clothing, took jobs away from "Americans". Angry mobs once lynched and burned the Chinese out of every major city in the west. The anti-immigration movement not only drove most Chinese workers back to China, but passed laws practically banning all Chinese immigration until the Civil Rights era.
Today, Microsoft is asking to lift the cap on H-1 visas because their demand for foreign programming talent will soon hit the current ceiling. The Chinese (along with Indians and Europeans) are building operating systems to tame Cyberspace for barons like Bill Gates as they once built railroads for Leyland Stanford to settle the West.
But it is Republicans, led by Michigan’s Spencer Abraham, who are fending off attempts to roll back immigration. And it’s not Pat Buchanan, but the obscure Norman Matloff, computer science professor of the University of California at Davis who is fighting to keep foreigners from our shores. A Democrat of Jewish heritage, Matloff has become the nation’s chief architect of arguments based on his relationships to the Chinese community to cut back if not end all immigration. Instead of ignoring this man, Americans, not just Asians should seriously start examining charges that this man is steadily on a path that may assure him a spot in history as the one-man movement who carried the legacy of the anti-Chinese movement into the information age.
Matloff has been quoted in the New York Times, US News and World Report, even Seattle’s own free Computer Source newspaper for his presentation to Information Technology Associations of America asserting that the widely publicized software worker shortage is a "myth". Matloff is always careful to note that he is married into and active in the Chinese community, and hardly the picture of a xenophobe.
But consider roots of this evolution from his criticisms of the Chinese community he has become active in. In the Feb 1994 issue of the conservative National Review (later attacked for a cover with another unflattering portrayal of Asians), Matloff argues in "Easy Money, Lost Traditions" that 50% of Chinese elderly immigrants are committing fraud by collecting SSI despite sponsorship pledges of support. This article was the spark that lead to legislation that made all non-citizens ineligible for any means tested benefits, and was named the most harmful issue of 1996 by Asian Week. His response? The laws didn’t go far enough. Naturalized citizens are still eligible to collect the same benefits as other citizens.
In 1995, I calculated from an employee newsletter that probably 35% or more of Microsoft’s newest developers were immigrants, not just the 8% aliens usually quoted. Most industry leaders decry cutting back on the source of one-third of their best minds. But in "Debugging Immigration" from National Review October 9, 1995, Matloff says that immigrants are not only not needed, they’re harmful.
They are not as skilled or innovative as natives are. It doesn’t matter if it’s Time Man of the Year Andrew Grove of Intel, Charles Wang of the world’s #2 software company Computer Associates, or Jerry Yang of Yahoo. Matloff boldly proclaims that with the exception of An Wang, immigrants have made no essential innovations, and are no more essential to US prosperity than Indian motel owners. Immigrants are hired only because of their cheap labor, not their talent.
If they dominate 90% of their world markets, or created these multi-billion dollar markets and associated wealth out of thin air in only two decades, it could have been done equally by natives alone. In fact, Intel and Microsoft have "bungled", not advanced PC design, in his opinion. In fact immigrants don’t create jobs because their hiring networks take jobs away from "Americans" and lower hiring standards.
He counters the remarkable academic record, and overwhelming predominance of over-representation of Asians in every education and industry statistic from employment rates to patent filings with the only evident area of under-achievement, awards from professional societies like IEEE and ACM. Matloff chooses to slam the abilities of the only ethnic groups than can rival the Jewish Americans in high tech. His is the only education study ever published which concludes that the academic skills of Asians are not greater, but lower than those of natives.
In the San Francisco Chronicle May 20, 1997, "Asians, Blacks and Intolerance", and testimony to Congress "The Adverse Impacts of Immigration on Minorities", Matloff paints both the Asian and Hispanic communities as harboring hatred towards the African Americans. Oliver Wang wrote back that he appears to "bash the same community he claims to have been active in".
Does any racist poster provide detailed footnotes on the internet that prove that the Chinese (and Hispanics) are shameless racists, the Chinese (and Russians) flagrantly abuse the welfare system, or that Chinese (and Indians) are harmful to US leadership in high tech? Isn’t this massive catalog of cultural defects documenting Asians the same way that Mein Kampf categorized Jewish contributions to Germany? Isn’t being America’s top expert on opposing immigration, a professor quoted by the New York Times, and who has succeeded in inspiring legislation, far more dangerous and subtle than any hate email, or skinhead web site? And why is it that no civil rights organization leader has ever issued a public rebuttal or condemnation of such attitudes?
Matloff’s positions are so far off reality they would be comical if the consequences weren’t so potentially disastrous for a region where Microsoft is the #1 creator of millionaires, and each job creates 3.5 to 5 new jobs compared to 2.8 at Boeing. Matloff says stopping immigration would force companies to hire natives, but figures cited by Electrical Engineering Times shows only 6% of new programmers come from foreign countries in a pie that grows by 10% per year. 11% are the very unemployed workers Matloff says should be hired first. Matloff’s paints a picture of a career field in depression when programming has the lowest unemployment rate (not even 1%) and the highest pay of any nonprofessional degree career. Only lawyers and doctors make more.
Matloff says there wouldn’t be a shortage if Microsoft simply hired the other 98% of applicants they reject. His most famous line is that that any programmer can be productive in any technology within 2 weeks. If most PhD’s, and people with the latest hot skills are foreigners, he counters that no programming job requires any specific training, experience, or degree. Logically, this leaves immigration status as the only background factor that is reliably associated with the lack of programming talent.
Thus, Matloff presents "Cindy", an unemployed defense programmer whose resume is devoid of any current career keywords as prime example of "exceptional" talent. Only a man who can wave his credentials as a computer science professor can get away convincing people outside the industry that Cindy is superior to H-1 workers like the Armenian earning 6 figures including stock options building Microsoft’s next web browser. Or that Cindy could easily replace the Canadian coming in under the NAFTA agreement doing 3D scene rendering at Sierra Online. The only underpaid sweatshop H-1 workers I’ve known are ones like this Armenian who have worked their way up into the big time.
Matloff’s widely quoted immigrant wage gap of 15% is just plain wrong when accounts usually leave out the fine print. It compensates for education when immigrants have far more education, and only looks only at Silicon Valley, which has the highest pay levels in the world, and most of the native-born live elsewhere. Census figures show 38% of Santa Clara County Asians in 1990 had BS degrees compared to only 20% of whites. How can you state that Silicon Valley immigrants are paid less when those from Taiwan and India had personal incomes of $23,592 and $22,440 compared to $16,178 for the US born? The National Science Foundation found immigrants with an advantage of $1000 to $4000 with a master’s degree, EE Times found their Asian immigrant readers were $3000 ahead, while even the anti-immigrant Center For Immigration Studies published figures showing Chinese and Indian immigrants earned 7% to 12% more than natives.
Alarmists say that immigrants bring disease, crime, and prejudice, take away jobs, lower wages, and destroy the environment. Yet 19.7 million jobs were created in the decade from 1983-93, over twice the 8,948,475 immigrants who arrived during 1983-92. Recent headlines show that living standards are the highest ever in history. Unemployment is at the lowest rates since the 1960s. Doctors and engineers have the most immigrants, but have the lowest rates of unemployment. Likewise, cities like Silicon Valley and Los Angeles with the highest percentages of immigrants have the lowest rates of unemployment and the most jobs and the highest pay.
Asians have a lower arrest rate for nearly every crime reported by the Justice Department. Fears of tuberculosis aside, Asians and Hispanics have equal or better indicators for almost every OTHER health risk like cancer, infant mortality and life expectancy, even among the poor. Asians and Hispanics commit lower rates of hate crimes than natives, and often support affirmative action
Despite predictions of decline, living standards have improved by nearly every measure with increasing population. Natural resource reserves and food production is up. Air pollution is down. Americans live longer, drive and live in better homes and cars, and take better vacations. We can surf the web for the New York Times and afford computers and digital video and sound that would have bankrupted the defense budget only a generation ago.
The real immigration welfare scam is that working age immigrants are paying for the Social Security checks of elderly natives. But if their elderly parents arrived after retirement, they won’t even qualify for SSI. MIT economist Lester Thurow says that Social Security is basically a welfare system since current workers pay retirees far more than they had ever put into the system. Because most immigrants arrive at younger working age, while few elderly take the leap, Census figures show White (non-Hispanic) households collected $2500 per year in welfare and social security. That’s much more than the $1500 for Asians or Hispanics (who can be any race). When Uncle Sam is counting immigrants to keep social security afloat, an argument could be made that the elderly parents that they sponsor should be eligible for Social Security, not kicked off of SSI.
Don’t be fooled by the threat of what immigration "might" bring. 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 Hu’s immigration facts page can be found at
http:// www.leconsulting.com / arthurhu/index/immig.htm
Details on Norman Matloff’s immigration and welfare page can be found at
The "Chinese Must Go!" poster can be viewed at