Economist Bryan Caplan, my George Mason colleague, has an excellent post taking apart the most important argument offered by those libertarians who oppose Hispanic immigration to the United States: the claim that it will result in an expanded welfare state because Hispanics tend to vote Democratic. Bryan rightly points out that the voting tendencies of Hispanics are not cast in stone, that any statism-promoting effects of Hispanic migration are likely to be offset by increased opposition to the welfare state by native-born citizens (because social science data show that people are less supportive of the welfare state if they think the benefits are going to members of a different ethnic group), and that any libertarian harm resulting from Hispanic immigration is vastly outweighed by the much greater injustices resulting from immigration restriction. He also chides anti-immigration libertarians for ignoring the enormous harm restrictionist policies inflict on current and would-be migrants. As libertarians, we have no justification for excluding these from consideration merely because they happen not to be US citizens. Moreover, as philosopher Michael Huemer demonstrates, immigration restrictions are severe impositions on precisely the kind of “negative” freedom that libertarians most value. Libertarians are not nationalists or ethnic chauvinists, and must weight the freedom of all equally:
Almost 70% of American voters under the age of 30 voted for Obama. Why isn’t anyone calling for the deportation of America’s youth, or limits on fertility to raise our average age? The reason, presumably, is that people realize that this would be a grotesque over-reaction. Even if young voters are making America a little more socialist, the “cure” of mass exile is far worse than the disease. Libertarians should view arguments against Hispanic immigration in exactly the same way . . .
In fact, the moral imbalance is shocking. On the one hand, we have some libertarians fretting about the vague possibility that Hispanics might moderately increase the size of the welfare state. On the other hand, we have millions of Hispanics worrying that they might get deported back to the Third World, and tens of millions more languishing in dire poverty in their home countries when American employers would be happy to hire them. If anyone is “more sinned against than sinning,” it is the maligned Hispanic immigrant. Shouldn’t libertarians be standing up for him, instead of respectfully weighing flimsy excuses for his continued persecution?
I would add two points to Bryan’s analysis. First, even if potential Hispanic support for the Democrats were a more serious danger than he allows, the better libertarian solution is not to restrict Hispanic migration, but to accept more immigrants that are likely to vote Republican and oppose welfare statism: people from countries like Cuba, Georgia, Poland, Russia, and Vietnam.
Second, Bryan’s co-blogger Arnold Kling worries that Hispanic migration might create a “one-party state” in the US because “ethnic bloc voting” will make it impossible for the Republicans to woo this group successfully. There are many problems with this argument. But one big one is that the Hispanic vote is not and has never been monolithic. George W. Bush won about 35% of the Hispanic vote in 2000 and 40% in 2004, two very close elections. Even in 2008, a terrible year for the party that got saddled with the blame for the economic crisis, John McCain managed to get 31%. These figures represent a big edge for the Democrats. But they certainly fall well short of monolithic bloc voting. In the 1970s and 80s, the Republicans learned to successfully compete for the votes of Catholics and “white ethnics,” groups that were once overwhelmingly Democratic. There is no reason why the Republicans can’t be equally effective in wooing Hispanics.