The wall has been Trump’s biggest campaign line since he started this presidency race. People have scoffed at the idea that he will ‘force Mexico’ to pay for it, saying that will never happen. Even Mexican leaders have said ‘no f**king way’. But to all the nay sayers… here is a real plan.
Donald Trump says he would force Mexico to pay for a border wall as president by threatening to cut off the flow of billions of dollars in payments that immigrants send home to the country, an idea that could decimate the Mexican economy and set up an unprecedented showdown between the United States and a key regional ally.
In a two-page memo to The Washington Post, Trump outlined for the first time how he would seek to force Mexico to pay for his 1,000-mile border fence, which Trump has made a cornerstone of his presidential campaign and which has been repeatedly scoffed at by current and former Mexican leaders.
The proposal would jeopardize a stream of cash that many economists say is vital for Mexico’s struggling economy. But the feasibility of Trump’s plan is unclear both legally and politically, and it would test the bounds of a president’s executive powers in seeking to pressure another country.
In the memo, Trump said he would threaten to change a rule under the USA Patriot Act antiterrorism law to cut off a portion of the funds sent to Mexico through money transfers, commonly known as remittances. The threat would be withdrawn if Mexico made “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion” to pay for the border wall, he wrote.
“It’s an easy decision for Mexico,” Trump said in the memo, on campaign stationery emblazoned with “TRUMP Make America Great Again!”
After the wall was funded, Trump wrote, transfer payments could continue “to flow into their country year after year.” He gave the memo to The Post in response to a written question provided to him before an interview last week.
Nearly $25 billion was sent home by Mexicans living abroad in 2015, mostly in the form of money transfers, according to the Mexican central bank. In his memo, Trump said that “the majority of that amount comes from illegal aliens.”
But that figure includes cash from around the world, not just the United States. In addition, a Government Accountability Office report in Januarysaid it is difficult to track how much money Mexican immigrants working illegally in the United States are sending vs. money sent by those working legally.
Another complication in Trump’s remittance proposal is that he also wants to deport all 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States, many of whom come from Mexico.
President Obama sharply criticized Trump’s remittances proposal Tuesday and told reporters at the White House that foreign leaders are peppering him with questions “about some of the wackier suggestions” coming from Trump and his main Republican rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.).
“This is just one more example of something that is not thought through and is primarily put forward for political consumption,” Obama said. “The notion that we’re going to track every Western Union bit of money that’s being sent to Mexico, good luck with that.”
Cristóbal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Fund, blasted the idea as “a very dangerous and unrealistic proposal.”
“This is nothing but another attack against immigrants that would have devastating consequences for Latinos and Americans overall, endangering our economy, our democracy, our foreign policy and security,” Alex said.
Throughout the campaign, Trump has claimed that he could build his proposed U.S.-Mexico barrier for about $8 billion — a figure that numerous experts have described as dubious because of the costs and other obstacles to building a lengthy, impenetrable concrete barrier through numerous jurisdictions.
Trump’s proposal to pay for such a wall is also fraught with challenges. Although there is a shortcut in the Administrative Procedure Act that allows for “interim” regulations that take effect immediately without going through the regular public notice and comment process, there are limitations on that authority.
Based on the process for changes laid out in the Federal Register, Trump as president could potentially invoke a change by making the argument that illegal immigration is an emergency that must be addressed immediately or is a threat to public health or safety.