for Seattle's Asian Focus Magazine
"The Chinese Must Go!": Matloff's Myth of a Programmer Shortage
Arthur Hu's immigration facts page can be found at
Details on Norman Matloff's immigration and welfare page can be found
Seattle Asians may wince at ObeChine's use of a 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 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 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, lead 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, a Democratic of Jewish
heritage who has become the nation's architect of arguments based on
his relationships to the Chinese community to cut back if not end all
immigration. Instead of ignoring this man, 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
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 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 noncitizens ineligible for any means tested benefits. His
response? The laws didn't go far enough since naturalized citizens
are still eligible.
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 NR October 9, 1995, Matloff says that
immigrants are not only not needed, they're harmful.
They are not as skilled or innovative as natives. Whether it's Time
Man of the Year Andrew Grove of Intel, Charles Wang of Computer
Associates, or Jerry Yang of Yahoo, he boldly proclaims that with the
exception of An Wang, immigrants have made no essential innovations,
and are no more essential 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
multibillion dollar markets and associated wealth out of thin air in
only two decades, it would have been done equally by natives alone.
In fact, Intel and Microsoft have "bungled" not advanced PC design,
in his opinion. 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 choses to slam the abilities of
the only ethnic groups than can rival the Jewish Americans in high
tech. His is only education study ever published which concludes that
the academic skills of Asians are not greater, but lower than those
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
Matloff's positions are so far off reality they would be comical if
the consequences weren't so potentially disastrous for a city 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.
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 building Microsoft's next web
browser, or the Canadian 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 natives 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 TB 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 whites, while their
own parents 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 ever put into the system.
Because most immigrants arrive at younger working age, while few
elderly take the leap, Census figures show nonHispanic White
households collected $2500 per year in welfare and social security,
compared to only $1500 for Asians or Hispanics. When Uncle Sam is
counting immigrants to keep social security afloat, the elderly
parents that they sponsor should be eligible for Social Security, not
kicked off of SSI
Don't 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.