Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to force Mexico to pay for a 1,000-mile border wall by threatening to seize $24 billion in remittances sent annually from the U.S. to Mexico is charitably described as cockamamie. Readers will be unsurprised to learn that his proposal – outlined in a two-page memo sent to the Washington Post – builds off some dubious claims.
Here’s why it’s silly: It is a huge stretch to assume that a president could seize such remittances under the Patriot Act anti-terrorism law. The $24 billion figure doesn’t differentiate between money sent by Mexican nationals in the U.S. with legal status and those without. And then there’s the fact that it’s no longer 1975 – there are plenty of ways to transfer relatively small sums of money that would be tough to regulate, much less block.
Any serious enforcement of the plan would lead to a huge boom in black-market and gray-market money-transfer schemes, in which people with legal status to make remittances could take a 1 percent fee (or less) to do so.
But it is wrong to take Trump’s proposal even this seriously. Why? Because it builds on the fundamental falsehood that America has “the moral high ground” to undertake such a hugely punitive stand against a neighboring nation with whom we have a complicated but relatively strong relationship. It’s simpleminded to see the presence of 11 million undocumented Mexican immigrants in the U.S. as Mexico’s fault. The rarely voiced secret at the heart of the immigration debate is that Republicans know their powerful Chamber of Commerce wing doesn’t even think this is a problem because it likes cheap workers.
The welcome news is that Trump’s chances for the GOP nomination, much less to win the White House, seem to be fading by the day. Good. Our short national nightmare may soon be over.