Saturday 25 January 2020

Donald Trump proposes funding Mexico border wall by cutting off remittances

Donald Trump wants to build a wall on America's border with Mexico (AP)
Donald Trump wants to build a wall on America's border with Mexico (AP)

Donald Trump would try to force Mexico to pay for a border wall by targeting billions of dollars in remittances sent by immigrants living in the US, according to a memo released by his campaign.

The memo outlines in new detail how Mr Trump would try to compel Mexico to pay for the 1,000-mile wall he has promised to build along the Southern border if he becomes president.

In his proposal, Mr Trump threatened to change a rule under the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law, to cut off a portion of the funds sent to Mexico through money transfers known as remittances. His plan would also bar non-Americans from wiring money outside of the US unless they can provide documentation establishing their legal status in the country.

Mr Trump said he would withdraw the threat if Mexico makes "a one-time payment of 5-10 billion US dollars" to finance the wall.

"It's an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of 5-10 billion dollars to ensure that 24 billion dollars continues to flow into their country year after year," the memo reads.

"Good luck with that," President Barack Obama said in response to questions about Mr Trump's proposal. He warned of the ramifications such a plan would have on the Mexican economy which, in turn, would drive more immigrants to cross the border in search of jobs.

"People expect the president of the United States and the elected officials in this country to treat these problems seriously, to put forward policies that have been examined, analysed are effective, where unintended consequences are taken into account," Mr Obama said. "They don't expect half-baked notions coming out of the White House. We can't afford that."

The US is home to about 12 million Mexicans, some living here illegally, according to various research organisations that monitor trends in immigration. They and other migrants use money transfer agents or banks to send money home, often with the objective of supporting their families.

The Mexican central bank reported that money sent home by Mexicans overseas hit nearly 24.8 billion dollars last year, overtaking oil revenues for the first time as a source of foreign income. Cutting off those transfers would therefore represent a significant blow to the Mexican economy.

The memo also lists other potential areas for leverage, including threats of trade tariffs, cancelling visas - including targeting "business and tourist visas for important people in the Mexican economy" - and increasing visa fees, including fees on border crossing cards.

The release of the memo was first reported by the Washington Post.

Mr Trump's wall is his signature policy proposal - and mere mention of the word elicits booming cheers and applause at his rallies, where supporters sometimes dress in wall shirts and costumes. Mr Trump often leads call-and-response sessions where he asks his audience who will pay for the wall.

"Mexico!" they thunder in response.

The billionaire businessman has estimated his proposed wall would cost between 10 billion and 12 billion dollars, and has argued that it would protect the country from illegal border crossings as well as halting drug shipment.

The memo's release comes on the day of the Wisconsin primary, where Mr Trump has been trailing rival Ted Cruz is some recent opinion surveys.

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto has said his country will not pay for any such wall. In an interview with the Excelsior newspaper last month, Pena Nieto compared Mr Trump's rhetoric to that of dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, saying that language like his has led to "very fateful scenes in the history of humanity."

PA Media

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