Senate testimony on equal opportunity employment in technology 1998


Chairman Abraham, Senator Kennedy and Subcommittee Members: I’d like to begin by posing a question. Could you count to one thousand?

Do you believe that most Americans could count to eight hundred?

If you lived in a subdivision that was one thousand parcels wide by eight hundred parcels long, could you locate your house?

Of course, to find your address, you would go down a certain number of house and then perhaps across a few more.

More than 250 million Americans perform that task every day.

And that is the same basic skill that computer programmers perform. They describe the behavior of a computer screen that is 1,000 pixels wide by 800 pixels deep. A program tells each pixel what to do, choosing from two options.

I’m not a programmer, but the author of a computer language with whom I’m writing a technical book, just liberated me from the gnawing feeling that there was a super race of people out there somewhere who could program computers.

I’d like to share that same sense of liberation with you in the hope that you would realize that the non-immigrant visa is perhaps the biggest fraud perpetrated on the

Congress of the United States in many years. Behind the fog of how difficult it must be to program a computer, you’ve been convinced to undo the protections of the immigration
system and abdicate your constitutional responsibility to control access to this country to a few overseas contractors. More than eight of ten Americans, when asked if they would approve of a law like the H-1B program, think it is a ridiculous
idea. Most are not aware that you actually put this provision into law. They certainly don’t know that the government actually allowed more H-1B visas in the country than the law provided or that 60 percent of the applicants are of questionable qualifications.

African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are painfully aware of how Congress warped the labor marketplace with this corrupt program. Approximately 770,000 of those groups currently work in information technology throughout the
economy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But fewer than 18,000 work in high technology federal contractors.

Let’s examine why this has warped the working of the free market. There are 125,000 African-Americans and 54,000 Latinos who are systems analysts. There are
also 166,000 of those two groups who are engineers. In addition, there are 39,000 African-Americans and 30,000 Latinos who are programmers.

Interestingly enough, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists programmers not as a professional occupation, but as a technical profession.

The employees we’ve just listed total 414,000.

According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, only 7,349 members of those groups received bachelors degrees in engineering in 1997-1998. Only
1,700 received masters in engineering and only 205 received doctorates in engineering.

Goi lback five years, the comparable numbers are 5,657; 1,324 and 103.

Clearly, those numbers are not sufficient to produce more than 400,000 high tech workers. Let’s look at some real life examples. Two weeks ago, the Byte Back program
in the nation’s capital held a graduation for a class of 20 interns, all older persons being retrained in high tech skills. I watched one woman of about 50 years


of age describe having spent the previous 10 years as a cook. After one years internship, she is now a database administrator.

One of my co-convenors in the Coalition is Jacqueline S. Anderson, who began working with Bank of America 18 years ago as a teller. Last year, we celebrated her graduation from a masters of business administration program at Golden Gate
University. At the time, she had two small kids and had been receiving welfare.

Since banking became increasingly technology intensive during that period, she began going to night school in mathematics. Five years before she finished her bachelors degree, she was already working for the bank as a technology troubleshooter,
writing the customer account and call center software and leading teams of programmers to integrate merged banks. When the bank itself was acquired, her skills were highly coveted by the new owners. They got rid of the CEO and promoted her.

People like Jackie have an organization called Black Data Processing Associates that holds programming classes for high school students each Saturday. The chapters around the country have a programming competition each August.

People who have risen up through the ranks have a tendency to reach back and bring along others.

Let’s look at another example, Jennifer Wellington, an instructional technologist at San Francisco State University who operates its high tech learning lab. She gained her technical training in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. I met her when she wired the technical pavilion of 30 computers at the Juneteenth celebration in San Francisco for Microsoft. Interestingly enough, no one from Microsoft offered her a
job, though.

That is another source of talent which the normal functioning of the free market would tap. There are currently 422,977 African-Americans and 161,611 Latinos in the U.S. military. That’s 600,000 young people who somehow have mastered the
math and science to operate the most advanced technology. There are more than 167,000 black female veterans like Wellington and 770,000 black male veterans under the age of 44•almost one million people who have placed their lives on the
line for this country.

The kind of free market they fought for would value their skills and aptitude.

The Department of Defense has had to step up its recruiting, get involved in K- 12 education, increase scholarship assistance and continuing education. That demand
has increasingly benefited the groups that have been excluded.

In a free market, the same thing would happen in high technology.

Congress has created a situation where only three Silicon Valley companies fund scholarships through the National Action Council on Minorities in Engineering which provides 700 scholarships yearly on a budget of $5 million; where only four
companies are corporate sponsors of the Silicon Valley chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, where more than 1,200 of 1,500 firms do not file EEO-1 or VET-100 forms with the Joint Reporting Committee, where a national laboratory
just told an African-American receiving a Ph.D in physics this year that it had no places available and last year told a black female Rhodes Scholar in physics the same thing, where the number of African-Americans and Native Americans at federal
contractors in Northern California high tech firms actually declined from 1996 to 1997.

That’s why this program violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

It denies those workers the opportunity to work in the high-paying jobs created by taxpayer funded research and allows a group of wealthy campaign contributors to flout the laws that other employers have to abide by.

The impact in lost wages is $350 million per year for blacks. Latinos and Native Americans in Northern California. The impact over the next 20 years will be $3 trillion in lost income and entrepreneurship•that’s 15 times the impact of residential
segregation over the past 50 years. In Oakland, Micheal Fields, a former military veteran who rose to be president of Oracle USA without benefit of a college degree, has invested in a startup company called Via Novus, which has doubled in the past year and plans to hire 300 employees in the next year by hiring from places like the local community college district and area universities. If they can find these workers, why not the larger high tech companies.

The San Jose airport has a curfew of 11 p.m. No one can land a plane there past that point. Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison has landed his plane after the curfew numerous times. The same attitude permeates companies like Oracle on this H-1B
program. They think they’re above the law.

I’m having to cancel a trip to Cote Dlvoire to a World Bank conference on educational technology for my software business in November because I can’t get a passport renewed by then. But an H-1B can get approved into the country in seven

days, by fax, with no confirmation of the supposed qualifications. Do you think that is not an invitation to fraud?