Photo credit: Reuters/Dominick Reuter
Photo credit: Reuters/Dominick Reuter

Donald Trump proposed on Tuesday forcing Mexico to pay for his planned border wall by threatening to block remittances from illegal immigrants, which he said amounts to “welfare” for poor families in Mexico that their government does not provide.

The Republican presidential candidate’s campaign said in a memo that if elected in November, Trump would use a U.S. anti-terrorism law to cut off such money transfers unless Mexico made a one-time payment of $5 billion to $10 billion for the wall.

Trump’s pledge to build the wall has been a much-touted highlight of a platform targeting illegal immigration in the United States that has helped make him the front-runner to be the Republican nominee for the Nov. 8 election.

The memo elaborated on an idea Trump floated in August, when he suggested seizing all remittances tied to “illegal wages.” It said that upon taking office a Trump administration would propose a rule mandating companies such as Western Union Co WU.N to require customers to prove they were legally in the United States. If Mexico agreed to fund the wall, Trump would drop the proposed rule, it said.

“It’s an easy decision for Mexico,” his campaign said, adding the country receives about $24 billion a year in remittances from Mexicans in the United States, most of them in the country illegally.

“It (remittances) serves as de facto welfare for poor families in Mexico. There is no significant social safety net provided by the state in Mexico,” it said.

According to the World Bank Remittances project, flows from the U.S. to Mexico in 2014, the last full year for which it has data, were nearly $24 billion although it is unclear what portion comes from Mexicans living in the country illegally.

Several academics themselves have since criticized the feasibility of this idea. As mentioned by Aaron Klein,  Trump’s idea would be to curtail the ability of banks, credit unions, and wire transmission companies to send money abroad — a sharp departure from policy and law whose bipartisan aim has been to bring remittances to all countries into the financial mainstream and out from the shadowy illegal word of people moving cash in suitcases.

He warns in his piece for Brookings Institution that this could be potential damaging to even non-Mexicans in the United States. Trump’s proposal could also affect banks and companies that handle wire transfers, which also include MoneyGram International Inc and PayPal Holdings Inc’s Xoom.

In addition to his wall proposal, Trump has accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug runners to the United States. Democrats and many Republicans have repeatedly condemned his comments as inflammatory, but his remarks have been enthusiastically received by his supporters, especially by white working-class voters.

In the memo, first reported by The Washington Post, Trump’s campaign repeated its pledge to target visas. It also cited imposing trade tariffs or enforcing existing trade rules as a way of forcing Mexico to pay.

The memo emerged as Republican candidate Ted Cruz appeared set to beat Trump in Wisconsin’s primary contest on Tuesday, a win he would hope would mark him as the best alternative to the New York billionaire.

Summarised from: Reuters, Brookings


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