Trump Would Fight Illegal Immigration With Economic Penalties
Policy + Politics

Trump Would Fight Illegal Immigration With Economic Penalties

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

One of the big questions about Donald Trump’s iron-fisted immigration plan is how the multi-billionaire businessman would make good on his pledge to force Mexico to pay for construction of a wall along the 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico. 

The government already has erected about 670 miles of security fencing along the southwestern border to curtail illegal crossings into this country at no small cost to the U.S. Some have estimated that it would cost between $4 billion and $8 billion to construct a state-of-the art wall or fencing to seal off completely the southwestern border. Considering that the real estate mogul never settles for second best, the cost to taxpayers of completely sealing off the border would be immense.

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Trump outlined his ideas for squeezing the funding out of the Mexican government in a five-page proposal he released over the weekend, and those ideas essentially amount to declaring economic warfare against Mexico, this country’s third largest goods trading partner. The Republican presidential frontrunner has repeatedly accused the Mexican government of fostering massive illegal immigration to the U.S. that has severely taxed schools and social services, increased crime rates and flooded the economy with cheap labor that severely cuts into Americans’ job opportunities.

His immigration white paper declares, “We will not be taken advantage of anymore.” And he repeated his pledge to make Mexico pay for the wall – largely by increasing fees on border movement between the United States and Mexico. Trump’s proposal also calls for the deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants who are here illegally, strengthening the enforcement arm of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office by “eliminating tax credit payments to illegal immigrants,” strictly enforcing an e-verify system to weed out illegal immigrants, enhancing penalties for staying past temporary visas, and ending birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.

You can read Trump’s Immigration Plan here: 

Immigration Reform Trump by The Fiscal Times

Until the Mexican government agrees to pay for the wall, Trump says he would do the following:

  • Impound or confiscate remittance payments to Mexico that are sent by illegal immigrants working in this country. Mexico received $21.59 billion in remittances from immigrants in this country in 2013, according to the Bank of Mexico.  Nearly 74 million transactions were registered in 2013, with the average remittance totaling $292, according to the central bank. Although it’s difficult to say what percentage of those funds were sent home by people working illegally in this country, experts say it is a large proportion.

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  • Increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican businesspersons and diplomats – and, if necessary, to cancel them.

  • Increase fees on all North American Free Trade Agreement worker visas from Mexico – a move that Trump says would reduce the number of people who overstay their visas in this country.

  • Increase fees at ports of entry to the United States from Mexico.

  • Consider slapping new tariffs on goods from Mexico or even slash foreign aid. Mexico receives several hundred million dollars in foreign aid annually.

Trump’s immigration proposals are premised on the assumption that, “For many years, Mexico’s leaders have been taking advantage of the United States by using illegal immigration to export the crime and poverty in their own country as well as in other Latin American countries.”

“They have even published pamphlets on how to illegally immigrate to the United States,” the white paper asserts. “The costs for the United States have been extraordinary: U.S. taxpayers have been asked to pick up hundreds of billions in healthcare costs, housing costs, education costs, welfare costs, etc. Indeed, the annual cost of free tax credits alone paid to illegal immigrants quadrupled to $4.2 billion in 2011. The effects on jobseekers have also been disastrous, and black Americans have been particularly harmed. The impact in terms of crime has been tragic.”

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In short, Trump’s paper insists, the Mexican government “has taken the United States to the cleaners” and they must help to clean up the problems. “The cost of building a permanent border wall pales mightily in comparison to what American taxpayers spend every single year on dealing with the fallout of illegal immigration on their communities, schools and unemployment offices.”

Trump’s paper neither specifies an overall cost for his ambitious plans for erecting a wall along the border – or precisely how much money could be raised by increasing fees or figuring out a way to confiscate money earned by illegal immigrants in this country and sent back to Mexico without triggering economic retaliation and tariffs by the Mexican government. What’s more, his proposed actions could violate existing trade agreements and reciprocity arrangements.

“You’re talking small potatoes [in fees] compared to any sizable expense for any infrastructure project,” Jeffrey J. Schott, an economist with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said on Monday. “None of those would generate much revenue, so that’s not an issue. But it certainly would create a lot of friction in North American relations and probably violate a number of our treaty obligations. The point is, it’s all buffoonery.”

Two of Trump’s  rivals for the GOP presidential nomination, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, dismissed Trump’s plan as misguided and said that simply building a wall would not resolve the nation’s illegal immigration woes. “It can’t be addressed just with a wall. That’s not going to fix the problem,” Christie said today on “Fox and Friends.”