Last week Ann Coulter wrote a piece on how immigrants to the United States helped Democratic candidates win in Virginia. She made a somewhat compelling case. It is this kind of concern that has made me more nervous than co-blogger Bryan Caplan or Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh about allowing more immigrants in. It’s not that I want immigrants to vote for Republicans. It’s that I don’t want them to vote for bigger government. Of course, Republicans and Democrats tend to favor bigger government. So the Democratic vote per se is not necessarily a good indicator.

Coulter pointed not only to foreign-born’s proclivity to vote Democrat but also to their favoring bigger government. It’s this latter than concerns me. She wrote:

The foreign-born vote overwhelmingly, by about 80 percent, for Democrats. They always have and they always will — especially now that our immigration policies aggressively discriminate in favor of the poorest, least-educated, most unskilled people on Earth. They arrive in need of a LOT of government services.

According to the Pew Research Center, 75 percent of Hispanic immigrants and 55 percent of Asian immigrants support bigger government, compared to just over 40 percent of the general public. Even third-generation Hispanics support bigger government by 58 percent.

I asked my friend Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute for his quick thoughts on Coulter’s article and he pointed out some strong evidence in the other direction.

Alex wrote:

I don’t have the empirical evidence on Virginia to show it for the 2017 election, but redder states like Texas have about double the immigrant population.

I assume that he was referring to the immigrant population as a percent of the total population in the state.

Alex also pointed out the following:

The difference [between Virginia and Texas] is how state-level GOPs treat immigrants. Gillespie’s ads and arguments here were pretty insulting.

Coulter also wrote that the idea that Republican support of Proposition 187 in California in 1994 helped turn California more left is a “fairy tale.” Alex says that it did push California more left, referring me to this study. His data are striking. See especially his Figures 3 and 4.

What if I weren’t convinced by Alex’s evidence? It wouldn’t cause me to be against immigration. There are such huge gains from trade between immigrants and us that we shouldn’t cut ourselves or them off from those gains. The solution is not to restrict immigration but to focus on the problem at hand. If you worry that immigrants will vote for bigger government, then address that problem, not immigration per se. My solution, to the extent this is a problem, is to have a longer residency requirement before one can become a citizen. Let people have a better understanding of the system before they vote. I got my green card in 1977 and didn’t become a citizen until 1986. That was 9 years without voting, and it wasn’t a big deal. What about making it 20 years?

Or how about insisting that immigrants pay at least $100,000 in taxes cumulatively before they can vote? (I think Bryan Caplan suggested this but I can’t find the reference.)

There’s a basic principle in economics, and, indeed, in life, that the best way to deal with a problem is to address the problem. The problem, if there is one, isn’t immigration. It’s voting. So address that.

UPDATE: Daniel Bier recommends this article by Alex Nowrasteh. It handles some of the empirical issues about the effects of immigrants on economic freedom. Bottom line: they don’t decrease it.